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Buffalo Poet Laureate Jillian Hanesworth Pushes For Change : NPR

Buffalo Poet Laureate Jillian Hanesworth.

Other Fredrick/Jillian Hanesworth

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Other Fredrick/Jillian Hanesworth

Buffalo Poet Laureate Jillian Hanesworth Pushes For Change : NPR

Buffalo Poet Laureate Jillian Hanesworth.

Other Fredrick/Jillian Hanesworth

Buffalo residents are feeling immense pain and grief following the mass shooting at a supermarket in a historically black neighborhood.

Jillian Hanesworth’s advice to her community is to bend over to this pain. She is the 29-year-old Buffalo Poet Laureate, born and raised on the East Side.

“Any pain we feel is valid. Tears are valid. Anger is valid,” she said. “Yes, it happened. You’re right. I know it hurts. It’s good for you to cry. It’s good for you not to want to go to work today. I’m scared.”

She’s been asked to speak across town on several occasions since Saturday’s racist attack and racked her brains over what to say, as nothing could make sense of a senseless act of violence.

The profession of poet

She takes issue with the #BuffaloStrong social media hashtag because it might trick people into believing survival is the goal, when they truly deserve to exist and thrive without fear of being hunted down in a grocery store.

“We don’t need to be told we’re strong right now. We need to be told we’re right,” she said, explaining that the hashtag doesn’t sit well with many black people in Buffalo. .

Hanesworth says her current job — as a poet, community organizer and teaching artist — is about validating people’s feelings, even if they’re angry, confused or grieving.

“Black people in this country have been through so much. So many people just hate us because we exist and we experience it on different levels every day. So we’re strong. We know that,” she said. declared. “My main focus right now is validating emotions. It’s real. We can’t let society make us believe there’s no racism. People need that right now.”

She understands the desire to turn to poetry to comfort herself. But she doesn’t want to hide the pain or normalize this kind of hatred and violence.

“As a poet, I see my role as a way to bridge the gap between what we know and what we need. So we know racism exists. We know white supremacists are real. We know we We’ve been targeted. Now we need money.”

She says what her city needs right now are honest conversations about systemic racism, the history of segregation, redlining and the building of freeways that hurt black neighborhoods.

When she spoke at a vigil on Sunday, she asked mourners who had used GPS to get to the site of the shooting to raise their hands. Most of the people who did were white, which she says is the nature of segregation in Buffalo.

Changing Systemic Racism

Many white friends reached out to share their support and sympathy and to offer their help. She asks them to be honest with themselves and with their friends and family about systemic racism.

“We need you to talk. We need you to stop sitting around the dinner table pretending like everything is okay because it’s not. It’s not because you don’t. don’t live that it’s not happening. Your role in all of this is to help change the system,” she said.

Once there is meaningful change and elected leaders, law enforcement officials and educators hear the deep emotions running through her community, Hanesworth says she will be ready to speak out about healing.

Instead of #BuffaloStrong, Hanesworth offers the hashtag #BuffaloHonest, to encourage people to talk about white supremacy, racism and violence.

In the meantime, she is comforted by the way her community comes together to serve barbecue, pray and cry at the supermarket a block from her office.

“There are people giving food and barbecuing and just trying to take care of each other because in that type of situation that’s all we can even think of doing,” he said. she declared.

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