programs for audiences of all ages to encourage literacy, particularly through poetry by providing opportunities for participants to try writing poetry and/or honing their skills as writers and poets.
I’ve always felt poets should speak to issues of significance in the community and society at large. Every culture is documented through the Arts. The poet, in particular, has a responsibility to represent the people through the Arts. I want to educate, inform, entertain, and, also, celebrate poetry as an art form; it’s a responsibility of the poet, particularly the Poet Laureate, the people’s poet. It is essentially a service position. It is an honor, one that carries with it a serious responsibility. J. Joy Matthews Alford, “Sistah Joy,” is Prince George’s County’s first Poet Laureate. “Sistah Joy” is her pen 116
name. Since her appointment as Poet Laureate of Prince George’s County in 2018, Alford has set herself the task visiting each of the County’s nine districts. Prior to the pandemic, for each of these performance-visits, she brought other poets with her, along with musicians and visual artists. Since March, she has redesigned these presentations for the Zoom platform. She used and continues to use these performances to encourage citizens of every age, every generation, to get involved with poetry, with the arts, with language. Alford works with the residents of the County offering free, quality
What’s Up? Annapolis | December 2020 | whatsupmag.com
Alford’s focus on poetry as communication is equally apparent through her numerous accomplishments. Her nationally recognized, local-access cable television program, “Sojourn With Words,” has aired for 15 years. (She received two Telly Awards from the Television Academy for Excellence in Cultural Programming). Alford has been recognized for her work as creator, host, and participant in this deep dive into writing poetry and literature. She also served as Poetry Editor of ACE Dialogue, a nationally distributed, literary quarterly. As “Sistah Joy,” she founded “Collective Voices,” an ensemble of poets, and was an honored guest reading from her poems at the International Women’s Day Conference: “In Celebration of My Sisters,” held in London,
England. “Collective Voices” published a chapbook of their work titled Experience, Expression, Expansion. “To Heal A Wounded World,” Sistah Joy’s inaugural poem for the new decade, was published in February 2020. She is a charter board member of CAAPA (Coalition for African Americans in the Performing Arts, Inc.), a member of the Prince George’s Truth Chapter of the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History (ASALH), and a lifetime member of the Prince George’s African American Museum and Cultural Center (PGAAMC). And if that weren’t enough, Sistah Joy serves as President of the Poetry Ministry and Poet Laureate of Ebenezer A.M.E. Church, Fort Washington, Maryland. Sistah Joy has authored three collections of her poetry: Lord, I’m Dancing As Fast As I Can, This Garden Called Life, and From Pain to Empowerment: The Fabric of My Being. You can learn more about her work at her web site sistahjoy.com.
Excerpt from “Neither Knees Nor Pandemics” By Sistah Joy Alford
Through rage we shout at the sun Pray to the son Bury too many young Give our innocent pre-adolescent children “The Talk” While wiping away tears, shaking our heads No longer will distraught and bereaved mothers Merely wring hands while tsk-tsking about Corrupt cops and court systems Designed to maintain in lockstep A march as steady and deadly as Auschwitz Too many young Black men and women Succumb as they struggle to breathe Struggle to have their voices heard Struggle to catch hold of a promise That was never intended for them