Zimbabwe Poets for Human Rights (ZPHR) last Saturday invaded First Street to celebrate Black History Month, reciting poems that tackled issues ranging from social service delivery, identity and corruption, among other topics relating to the socio-political and economic situation prevailing in the country.
The running theme for 2015 is A Century of Black Life, History, and Culture.
The occasion marked the closing of the month-long arts programme that saw poets showcasing their theatrical skills in Harare, Mutare, Bulawayo, Chitungwiza and Gweru.
The series of events began on February 5 with a poetry forum titled I Have a Dream Poetry Night. The second gathering was a poetry slam at the Book Café, where poets celebrated the life and times of Malcolm X and Nehanda Nyakasikana, recognising their efforts in fighting white supremacy.
Thereafter, human rights poets held Black Poetry in Motion forums in Gweru and Bulawayo, targeting the eradication of black inferiority and racial segregation across the globe.
The director of ZPHR, Robson Shoes Lambada, who also organised the event, was upbeat saying: “This year’s celebrations were the biggest since we began in 2008, showing how Zimbabwean people appreciate the importance of Black History Month.”
Lambada said recitations in First Street drew the largest crowd and finest poets in the country.
These included Biko Mutsaurwa, Madzitatiguru, Zack the Poet, Tswarebo Mothobe, Mwana waAfrika, Thee Orator, Michael Mabwe, Vokal the Poet and Mutumwapavi.
To the delight of the audience, Vokal the Poet recited the poem Heroes that celebrates gains brought by young people who sacrificed their lives for Zimbabwe to be liberated from the yoke of colonialism, however blaming the betrayal of those sacrifices by greedy politicians who are abusing power for self-benefit.
Apart from their original collections, poets also recited renditions from renowned African-American poets such as Langston Huges, Countee Cullen, Gwendolyn Brookes and Maya Angelou.
Black History Month was first celebrated in the United States in 1926 when Carter G Woodson, a Harvard PhD graduate, initiated the Negro History Week. Woodson, a historian, chose the second week of February because it includes birthdays of Frederick Douglass, an abolitionist, orator and writer as well as former US president Abraham Lincoln who believed in racial equality.
Douglass was the first African-American citizen appointed to high ranks in US government while Lincoln was the 16th President of the US.
ZPHR is the first arts organisation to celebrate Black History Month in the country, beginning in 2008.