Stand Up and Be Heard!
“In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun. On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp, praise song for walking forward in that light.”
Those words are the last stanza from “Praise Song for the Day,” written by Elizabeth Alexander, the inaugural poet for President Barack Obama. On Feb. 23, 2011, Alexander was at Western to share her inspiring words.
Describing her work as vivid and colorful, Carolyn Lanier, chief diversity officer in the university’s Multicultural Affairs and Affirmative Action Office, said that Alexander “makes poetry accessible. I like the word ‘accessible’ for her because she evokes memories and makes connections and people can understand the story she is telling.”
Lanier, who invited Alexander, believes that students, faculty and the public all benefitted from the event, which was designed to celebrate both Black History Month in February and Women’s History Month in March. “I hope she piqued their interest in poetry and also in learning more about the African-American experience,” Lanier said.
Alexander, chairman of the department of African American studies at Yale University, is the first recipient of the Alphonse Fletcher Sr. Fellowship for work that “contributes to improving race relations in American society and furthers the broad social goals of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954.” She also is the 2007 winner of the first Jackson Prize for Poetry, awarded by Poets and Writers. Other awards include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, two Pushcart Prizes, the George Kent Awards and a Guggenheim fellowship. Most recently, Alexander was named an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award winner for her lifetime achievement in poetry.