As the Springfield and Central Illinois African American History Museum works to incorporate the performing arts into its work moving forward, the museum is currently looking for a poet to feature during its 10th annual Honoring Our Heritage Awards Gala.
Those who are interested in participating in the AAHM’s inaugural poetry competition ahead of the gala will have an opportunity to win $250.
“What we hope to do is to broaden the aspects of the museum,” said AAHM President Carolyn Farrar. “We do a lot of curated exhibits about Springfield and central Illinois African Americans. But we also want to do a little bit more in the arts as well.
“Poetry is our first step into the performing arts, and we hope to branch out into some other areas such as drama, plays and that sort of thing.”
Poems to be considered for the contest must be centered around the theme of this year’s gala, “Honoring Foundations of Our Community: African American Businesses, Churches and Organizations.” While the guidelines for contest entries remain intentionally broad, the AAHM board hopes the flexibility will inspire creativity.
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Participants are welcome to put together poems on everything from what a central Illinois church has meant to them, to how a Black business has inspired them or how an organization like the Springfield Urban League has helped to shape them. Entries are not limited to personal narratives or a singular church, organization or business. Poets can also take a broader approach and address topics like civil rights, while incorporating the importance of a local organization like the Springfield NAACP and others.
“We are celebrating African American organizations, churches and businesses as mainstays of the community,” Farrar said. “So, we wanted to give attention to that and how important they are to the vibrancy of our community.
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“The poets can get pretty creative. Just somewhere in that poem should be a focus or a talking about one of these three entities.”
The contest, which is open to all, will be judged by about five people from the community who will select the winner. The selected poem will be presented during the fundraiser gala, which will be held virtually on Oct. 22, and will honor at least one church, business and organization for their contributions to the community.
The winning poem will also be published in the gala’s program.
Those interested in taking part in the poetry contest must contact the museum at firstname.lastname@example.org or 217-391-6323 by July 31. Poets will read their entries in front of the gala committee at 5 p.m. Aug. 14 at the AAHM.
“We have so much talent in this city,” said AAHM board member and gala chair Nell Clay. “So, we’re just excited to see what people come up with.”
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Contact Natalie Pierre at email@example.com or on Twitter @NataliePierre_.
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