Post by Bryana Moore, Engagement Fellow, James Madison Center for Civic Engagement
The Furious Flower Poetry Center celebrated its 25th Anniversary on September 27 and 28, 2019. The two-day conference was held at the National Museum for African American History and Culture. in Washington, D.C.
Furious Flower is the nation’s first Black Academic Poetry Center chartered on James Madison University’s campus in 2005 by Dr. Joanne Gabbin, after two successful conferences in 1994 and 2004. The conference and center get their name from Pulitzer-Prize winner and former U.S. Poet Laureate Gwendolyn Brooks in her poem, “The Second Sermon on the Warpland” (1968):
cracks into furious flower. Lifts its face
all unashamed. And sways in wicked grace.
I took advantage of the opportunity to attend Saturday’s event. I also contributed to the creation of the Furious Flower Digital Archive in a JMU XLab class last spring. The digital archive was created to be an accessible resource for expanding the viewers’ awareness on Black poets, their work, and the 1994 Furious Flower conference.
The weekend was filled with inspirational readings, critical perspectives, and celebrations of life from the Black Arts Movement. Conference participants attended roundtables on perspectives of the evolution of Black poetry, the creation of the Furious Flower Digital Archive from professors and students, and readings from Black poets. The day concluded with a legendary line-up including, but not limited to, Jericho Brown, Avery Young, A. Vann Jordan, Major Jackson, Toi Derricotte, Nikki Giovanni, and Sonia Sanchez. Participants were given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the passion-filled readings of Black poets, explore the dynamic history within the museum, and celebrate the accomplishments of Furious Flower. The artifacts preserved in the museum were brought to life through the vulnerable and emotion-filled stories expressed in their readings.
History was made with this monumental event. Many thanks to Dr. Gabbin, Lauren K. Alleyn and all those who work in Furious Flower for their visionary work and ongoing efforts to support Black creatives and seed the future.