“What you do is more important than what you say
And what you build is more important than what you do
So what you gonna build today?”
-Guante, hip hop artist, two-time National Poetry Slam champion, social justice activist and educator
At the end of November, I sat on the floor in the back room at Common Roots Cafe for a reading sponsored by dislocate, the journal of the U of MN MFA program. Every seat was full, hence my sitting right up front cooking in my coat because there was no way to take it off while also sipping coffee and nibbling on a fudgey dessert surrounded by (most likely) grad students. We listened to Sarah Fox’s vibrant poetry, Kao Kalia Yang’s powerful memoir piece, and Kevin Fenton’s new novel in progress. All stunning. Absolutely worth driving through the crush of traffic to get there.
Then there was Guante, the speaker of the opening quote for this post. My first impression of him would have to be “shy.” Not the usual adjective for a hip hop artist. He pushed down his black hat onto his head with both hands. He fidgeted a little. He looked alternately at the audience and the floor. As he began his first piece, he transformed. He could barely be contained in the room. Powerful, magnetic, every word and movement filled with purpose. And the words he was speaking, no, performing, revealed a deep wisdom and empathy and urgency of social change. The above quote was only one of many that I connected to. So much so that I bought his album, my first rap/hip hop album ever, and listened to it on the way home.
Since then, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what I build on a daily basis. What do I build with my children, my husband, my words? I like the word build. It speaks to creating, constructing, matching pieces, fitting, awareness of how things go together. I want to be a builder.
One of the most important “things” we need to build is community. How do we do that? What do I mean by community? Who are our community builders? These are the questions I plan to explore on this blog. Writing together is one of my main ways of building community and will be one aspect of this blog, but I want to venture into the myriad ways of creating community and also focus on those who are doing that important work. Info on Writing Parties can always be found here under the tab at the top. It would be an honor for me to write with you.
Welcome to Writing Together, a blog about building community.