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BBAC sponsors poetry workshop

“Creativity is not confined,” says playwright and poet Vassie Welbeck-Browne. “Creativity is in all areas of life. It is true that the more creative a person becomes, the more successful they are.”

The need to instill that success in the Black Belt’s high school students is at the heart of a new Black Belt Action Commission project kicking off this Tuesday. Welbeck-Browne and her husband, Malik Browne, are working in conjunction with the BBAC’s Youth and Culture Committee to hold a three-day poetry writing workshop and contest from May 3 to Thursday May 5 at the Greene County High School Auditorium from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“We’re very excited,” says Welbeck-Browne. “This is something that’s close to the heart of both me and my husband. We want to teach people to connect to their own creativity.”

Students will be connected by three days of fun and hard work. Each day would be split into three sections, Welbeck-Browne said, beginning with a reading and analysis of another poet’s work, such as Langston Hughes. From there the students will begin a period of writing and revising before sharing their work.

“This will be a very intense workshop,” Welbeck-Browne says. “Those who don’t write yet, we’ll be working closely with and they’ll be able to do their writing in workshop. At the end they’ll read what they’ve been able to produce in that setting. Those who have been writing for a while can bring in their work and will be able to improve it.

“In the third part the students will have a reading, and there will be an analysis and critique of each other’s work,” she adds.

30 students have already registered for the workshop, with hopefully more to come by Tuesday, Welbeck-Browne said. Although this will be far from the couple’s first workshopping experience–they have done several in Greene, Sumter, and Tuscaloosa counties–Welbeck-Browne says that interest in this one is running higher tha nnormal, thanks to the BBAC.

“The BBAC is on a quest to focus on finding new and better ways to add to student’s development,” she says. “I must say it seems like it’s been kicked up a notch. People are catching on.”

The workshop’s embracing of current cultural trends may have something to do with the increase in interest as well.

“A lot of that may have to do with rappers, which we encourage,” she says. “Rap is poetry, and we feel like it’s another level of expression. Like everything it has its good and bad aspects. We like to focus on the good.”

Then, Welbeck-Browne says with a laugh, there’s always bribery.

“We’ve been a little devilish,” she chuckles. “We are having a contest and we will be awarding cash prizes. That has excited a number of the students.”

But why so much effort for poetry? According to Welbeck-Browne, why not?

“Could you imagine? Where would our schools and our children be without art?” she says. “Art programs are the most common way, the most recognized way, to connect students to their creativity. When you’re connected to your creativity as an individual, you change and grow. This is how we continue to grow as we get older and it has an impact on the growth of our communities.

“Some people have said that art is not as important as math or science, but I would beg to disagree,” she says. “Art is part of the whole. It’s like the body, saying an arm is not as important as the trunk. We need all aspects in our schools.”

The workshop is open to any student in grades 7 through 12 who attends school in a Black Belt county. To register, students should talk to their principal or contact workshop coordinators Malik Browne and Vassie Welbeck-Browne at (205)-372-3711 or by e-mail at storytree231@bellsouth.net. Students will need to provide their grade, school name, and name of principal when calling. Registration ends Monday.