Cultural impact: 2015 momentous for the arts in Charleston, on cusp of new era

From an article written by Adam Parker in the Post and Courier. Read it here.

Strong words

South Carolina Poet Laureate Marjory Wentworth had a tumultuous 2015. In January, she was unceremoniously cut from Gov. Nikki Haley’s second inauguration program. It’s typical for the poet laureate to read something at these events, and Wentworth was prepared with her poem, “One River, One Boat,” a work that referred to the state’s history, the change it is undergoing and the yet-to-be-reconciled contradictions involving race.

“Here, where the Confederate flag still flies / beside the Statehouse, haunted by our past, / conflicted about the future; at the heart / of it, we are at war with ourselves,” Wentworth wrote.

She didn’t get a chance to read those lines in Columbia, but Rep James Clyburn read the entire poem into the Congressional Record. It was reprinted in The Post and Courier and generally received much attention across the state.

Then, as if to prove the significance of Wentworth’s “One River, One Boat,” came June 17: the terrible mass shooting at Emanuel AME Church. Nine black parishioners were killed by an admitted white supremacist.

In response, tens of thousands of Lowcountry residents, joined by thousands more from other places, rallied in solidarity — with one another and with the Emanuel AME congregation that suffered such a tremendous blow. Again, Wentworth responded to the unhealed wounds of this community by writing a poem called “Holy City,” which was published in The Post and Courier.

“Let us be strangers together as we gather in circles wherever we need to stand, / hand-in-hand, and sing hymns to the heavens and pray to the fallen.”

It was another example of how, through artistic expression, we might find the words to express our grief and our pain.

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