Spotlight On: Flint Poets

When you think of ‘poetry’ - if you’re not a poet, you might think of sadness and heartache. That is also similar to what someone outside of Flint, Michigan might think when they hear the word ‘Flint’. However, these young women are using poetry to reclaim their lives, circumstances, and redefine what you think of when you hear ‘Flint Poet’.

Danielle Horton - 18 years old, Razjea Bridges - 19 years old, and 25 year old Crystal Turner aka “Kirei” are three young African-American women, born and raised in Flint, Michigan. They have been members of the “Raise It Up! Youth Poetry Team”, and have represented Flint for many years at Brave New Voices - the world’s largest youth poetry competition. When asked about what encouraged them to pursue their passions in poetry they told Pray, Say & Slay,

Poetry is what helped me find my voice. It is my comfort zone, and as I perform I feel so free. Like some of the weight is lifted off of me.” Horton responded.

“Initially poetry was more of a challenge that I wanted to experiment with. I never knew I’d fall in love with or that it would very literally save my life. Poetry has become a security blanket and a friend in times when I felt I had no other way to speak.” Bridges replied.

Turner told us,

“I began writing at a very young age and after my mother began working in Flint schools in after school programs. I became interested in poetry and spoken word at the same age when I began to realize that the concerns I faced in my personal life were not being heard by those around me.”

                                                                       - Black Magic by Danielle Horton

They describe their writing styles as raw, versatile, captivating, and self evolutionary. And although, they have found homes in the world of poetry, they do not forget where they originally come from.

Turner said,

“People don’t know that this city (Flint) is full of artists, dreamers, activists, teachers and the like who are working to improve the city in any way they can.”

Horton confirmed by saying,

“Jon Connor, a local artist from Flint, Michigan, now signed under Dr. Dre created a song titled “Fresh Water for Flint”. I really appreciated the voice he gave to the situation and he really spoke to how I felt about it as well.”

“Being raised in the city I will always have a large space in my heart for its asphalt. Flint has always been known for the automotive industry and violence. What many don’t know about it the artistry that comes out of the city. Some of my biggest inspirations are Flint natives that I have regularly dealings with. Not only are these people creative, but they’re about community.” Bridges said.

When we asked them about the water crisis in their city, their answers were of hope and fight for a better Flint, Michigan,

“The nation already sees Flint as a danger zone because of the crime. It’s the last place they would want to visit, and now this water crisis is really making people pity us and that’s not what we want. We don’t need anyone’s pity, we just need new pipes, clean water, and a quality infrastructure to where the people living in Flint won’t continue to be disadvantaged. We are a fighting city.” Horton said.

Turner said,

“The media attempted to portray the water crisis as if it was nothing to worry about or take seriously. Then, when the situation began to gain national news coverage, the media portrayed us as ungrateful. Water bottle donations are wonderful and while we are grateful for the cases, they do not fix the pipes. It is not that we are ungrateful. The people in my city are tired of band aids being placed over open wounds and being told that we should be fine with that and not ask for the help that will benefit us the most.”

Not only do they face hardship being from Flint, but being women of color has encouraged them to speak their truths,

“Being a woman encourages me to pursue my passion in order to be that inspiration for the coming generation of women dreamers. I often feel as a Black, queer woman I have oppressive ideas I’m constantly defying. The hardest part of that can sometimes be to stay motivated and keep my purpose at the forefront.” Bridges affirmed.

Turner replied,

“Being a woman of color means that I face racism and sexism regarding both my poetry and my publishing business, it means that I face comments regarding my intelligence, my literacy and my work ethic.”

                                                                          - 8 Tips for Surviving Black Womanhood by Crystal Turner

                                                                          - 8 Tips for Surviving Black Womanhood by Crystal Turner

owever, despite all of the trials they face, they are still looking forward to fighting for a better tomorrow for themselves, their city, and the future generations to come.

“In five years, I hope to be teaching and performing poetry, as well as working as a marriage and family Therapist using art therapy to assist the couples, families, and children I will counsel.” Turner said.

Horton proudly said,

“I will graduate from college with my bachelor’s degree. Also I will have either started or establish my nonprofit creative arts studio in my hometown, Flint, Michigan.”

Bridges added,

In five years, I see myself graduated with both degrees and teaching in a high school setting. I also see myself as a much more established artist. I have so many goals and the ambition to accomplish all of them. Ultimately, I want to be sure that my professional goals align with my spiritual goals.

                                                                                                  - Testimony 2: Messenger in Israel by Razjea Bridges

                                                                                                  - Testimony 2: Messenger in Israel by Razjea Bridges

We know these young women will grow to be the inspiration of poetry, and sharing truth in Flint and around the world. 

                                                               

Pray, Say & Slay Team