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Poetry and Gospel take the stage at the City of Jackson’s Black History Month presentations

Poet James Cherry spoke at the City of Jackson’s Black History Month event Friday. The Jacksonian is a NAACP Image Award nominee and noted poet. 

He read several of his original works, about the relationship between him and his father, former students, and the recent tornado in West Madison County, among others. He also read a poem he wrote about Tyree Nichols, the man who was beaten to death by Black police officers in Memphis last month. 

“As long as those systems do have built-in prejudices, then it doesn’t matter what color the cops are,” Cherry said. “You’re gonna get the same result because the institutions have been established. So that’s one of the things that I reflected on, not so much the color of the cops, but we keep going around and around the same cycle, the same circles, and we keep getting the same results.”

Cherry also read a poem about the 600 Black men from Madison County, who joined the Union Army during the Civil War. A historical marker was placed in front of the Madison County Courthouse in 2021 to honor them. 

“Well, poetry for me, and writing in general, starts with the image,” Cherry said, “So when I thought about the guys running away from the plantations, and actually wanting to fight for their freedom, they didn’t want anybody to give them anything. So you know, those images just start playing in my mind, and I was able to to develop something from there.”

The following is an excerpt from “What Freedom Ain’t,” written by James Cherry:

“Freedom is

a regiment of runaways, black faces

armed with courage and Springfield rifles. 

Johnny Reb enraged in retreat.

Freedom is 

Six hundred hands in surrender

to Bedford Forrest’s bayonets. 

The Mississippi hemorrhages at Henning. 

Freedom is

an heirloom around Harriet’s neck

bequeathed to her children’s children

and those waiting to be born.

Freedom is 

an unmarked grave

on some great gettin’ up morning

raising a hallelujah.”

Cherry’s poetry collections and books are available on Amazon, and locally at LightTrap Books. 

During the event, E.J. Shelton sang gospel hymns for the crowd as well. He is a music minister at Historic First Baptist Church, and a leader for the Hub City Mass Choir that will be performing later in the month.

The City of Jackson is Celebrating Black History month all through February, and is inviting you to City Hall at 3:30 p.m. every Friday for different presentations. 

On Feb. 17, Nadia Beard and the Children’s Theatre Company of Jackson Kids with a Cause will perform. 

On Feb. 24, Mona Lisa Lanier Dance Studio and the Hub City Mass Choir will have performances. 

The City of Jackson is also recognizing influential Black citizens on their Facebook page all month long. 

Julia Ewoldt, julia@jacksonpost.news

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