By Sean Yoes, AFRO Baltimore Editor, [email protected]
Brion Gill, known on poetry stages internationally as “Lady Brion” wields her gift like a cudgel, or waves it like silk depending on the occasion. Yet, she consistently lifts her voice as an instrument for liberation.
“As a community leader, poetry creates an opportunity for authentic expression that provides opportunity for people to get opinions, arguments, and ideas directly from the source,” said Gill, the cultural curator for Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, a Black grassroots think tank based in Baltimore.
“For the “artivist,” poetry can also serve as a disruption. Much like the many demonstrations of the Black Lives Matter movement, poetry can raise awareness, in a disruptive sense, to the injustices or issues in society.”
Brion, a Baltimore native and former Baltimore City Public Schools teacher has traveled the world (including Ghana, Zanzibar and the U.K.) performing her poetry. In the process, she has captured major poetry championships; the 2016 National Poetry Slam Champion and the 2017 Southern Fried Regional Slam Champion, among others.
“Poetry creates a unique opportunity to galvanize and unify people,” Brion said. “Poetry shows us the universality of the human experience by allowing us to see similarities more than differences as we share stories and frustrations…a poet and their work can reflect the audience in which it is being read before. That is affirming because as an audience member it means that we are seen, we are recognized, and we are not alone.”
Ultimately, at this time of titanic shifts, politically and culturally, Brion sees poetry as a salve and a sanctuary. “Poetry lives in the uncomfortable, in the darkness, in the shadows — so poetry can evoke the voices and the emotions of those society consistently silences and marginalizes,” she said. “And there is real power in that.”