Poetry Extravaganza is a literary tribute to the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The tribute is presented annually by Collective Voices, the sisterhood of poets founded by Sistah Joy, in collaboration with Washington area businesses, organizations, artists and individuals of conscience that support the issues of social justice and equality for which Dr. King gave his life.
In January of 2006, Collective Voices, the Washington, DC-based sisterhood of African-American poets, presented Poetry Extravaganza 2006, honoring of the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Cited by Washington, DC Poet Laureate, Dolores Kendrick, as one of the city’s premiere annual literary events, Poetry Extravaganza is a dream realized for Collective Voices.
Presented annually at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library in downtown Washington, DC, Poetry Extravaganza is a free-to-the-community celebration which provides area citizens the opportunity to experience poetry performance at its finest, while honoring of one of the greatest fighters for equality and human justice that history has known. “We have been privileged to present this celebration in our home town, the nation’s capital, for 10 years. We have done so in partnership with area businesses, organizations and individuals of conscience; presenting the tribute while providing a significant opportunity for our sister and fellow poets who embrace Dr. King’s legacy as we do. It has been our dream-come-true .”
Over the years the tribute has featured a stellar line-up of “Poets of Distinction” including E. Ethelbert Miller, Sonia Sanchez, Haki Madhubuti, Eloise Greenfield, Kwame Alexander and Washington, DC Poet Laureate, Dolores Kendrick; as well as a virtual “who’s who” in the legion of accomplished area poets. The Malcolm X Drummers and Dancers, and some of the region’s finest Jazz musicians have also been an integral part of the celebration.
Mayor Anthony Williams has issued a “Poetry Extravaganza proclamation” for the past 5 years on the day of the event in recognition of the contribution to the city of Washington, DC and to the poetry community. Collective Voices is proud to have established Poetry Extravaganza as a means by which the city can come together in support of Dr. King’s dream, and in doing so, provide opportunities for area poets to share a stage with nationally-recognized literary figures such as the afore-mentioned Poets of Distinction.
The Extravaganzas, which have been covered by written and electronic media, have been recorded and aired on Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia cable stations. Additionally, and of further significance, Collective Voices has presented scholarships and books of poetry to youth during the Extravaganzas. The event is regarded with such significance that organizations, such as the NAACP’s ACT-SO and some area schools, have encouraged youth groups to attend, and in some instances, provided academic credit to students who did so.
Numerous “up-and-coming” guest poets have subsequently published their first book, citing the encouragement and exposure received through the experience of Poetry Extravaganza as significant in their literary growth. We hope Poetry Extravaganza will continue to provide opportunities for the community-at-large and for the community of poets in and around our hometown of Washington, DC.
Collective Voices is comprised of J. Joy “Sistah Joy” Matthews Alford (founder), Sylvia Dianne “Ladi Di” Beverly and Billye Okera, and can be contacted for additional information or booking inquiries at P. O. Box 44353, Washington, DC 20026.