In a time of social transformation, the power of voice cannot be overstated. The tragic death of George Floyd at the hands of police has gripped our nation with grief, the likes of which have galvanized communities with valor, and empowered voices to demand change.
If the countless protests punctuating major cities like New York and Washington D.C. mean anything in the way of social change, it’s that activism and speech matter. Emboldened and frustrated by enduring racial inequity, citizens of all stripes are masterfully using speech as vehicles for rousing real change. The evidence? Take, for example, the recent wave of police reform acts, as well as historic apprehensions, passed to bring justice for the voices that were so violently silenced. In states like California and Connecticut, as well as uniquely-distraught cities like Minneapolis, government officials enacted policies that would prohibit the use of extreme police tactics against the public. And just this last week, following a four-month stretch of public outcry, the officers suspected in Ahmaud Armery’s death were indicted on murder charges. Justice long overdue, but justice nonetheless.
Truth be told, our country’s racial reckoning is a solemn reminder of the voices that have long fallen on deaf ears. It’s a reminder of the hard, yet necessary work for racial equity that we must all undertake and continue to advance. It’s a reminder, chiefly, of the many stories of adversity that continue to befall Black Americans, stifling social progress, and curbing economic prosperity in-kind.
Bringing the lived experiences, the learnings, and musings of Black Americans into the fore is a task more important now than ever before. Literature, with its sweeping and versatile appeal, is often the tool of choice for uncovering these learnings. And poetry, literature’s more digestible cousin, has made a resurgence in recent days — offering not just resourceful prose, but a sense of respite for a society grappling with grief.
It’s no secret that the Black community is brimming with talented artists, writers, designers, and the like. 30-year-old Morgan Harper Nichols, a writer, and an artist herself, is a fierce advocate of centering Black experience, a philosophy she’s held since her brand’s inception. In the confines of poetry and illustration, Nichols derives her creative inspiration from the stories of others — transforming their lived experiences into deftly-written poetry, set to the backdrop of her own mixed-media illustrations, often abstract and realist in nature.
In as little as a four-line stanza, bringing color to stories with vivid craft, Morgan Harper Nichols is more than just a millennial voice to know. For many, Nichols is an envoy of lived truth, and for our society, today, she’s a voice defining the awakening of our time.
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