Now More Than Ever
2016 has taken its toll on us all. I don’t know a soul who is having the best year of their life. It seems as though we as Americans are more divided by our differences than at any other time in my adult life. And it’s painful to watch on television, hear on the radio and be inundated with such differing, damaging and polarizing opinions, left and right.
As an artist I have always felt that, aside from any personal activism and sweat equity toward causes in which I believe, my art is my entre into making a lasting difference in the world. So when I got the email from David Bradley, founder of Live Connections, that two of my respected colleagues, Poet Laureate Yolanda Wisher and artistic powerhouse Lela Aisha Jones, had suggested me as an opening speaker for the Philanthropy Network of Greater Philadelphia conference, I knew it was my chance to make my impact.
The theme for this year’s conference was “A More Perfect Union: Strengthening the Sector Together.” To use executive director Maari Porter’s words, nonprofits, grantmakers and philanthropists from our region converged at this conference “to ignite a conversation about how we as a people and as a sector move forward together at a crucial time in our nation’s history.”
With all the wind taken out of my sails by the 2016 election, and with what the results mean for myself and for so many other “others,” my approach to this particular poem took on a new life. I knew that I had a rare chance to inspire a room full of more than 400—people who have the power to generate change through systemic action.
Below is what I wrote, titled “ChangeMakers Charge.” I began by having the entire room repeat the first line after me, four times.
I began by having the entire room repeat the first line after me, four times…
by Nina Lyrispect Ball
Now more than ever. Now more than ever. Now more than ever. Now more than ever.
Now more than ever
–we are the wayfarers
The triple dog darers
The “this is OUR America”
We hold the keys
and we dream with our eyes open
Dancing with the elephant in the room like it’s our ballroom betrothed and
our destiny… is in our ability to hold the pose…
Power, presentation, togetherness, poise
We the chosen progeny of alchemists
We the true redemption of unrest
A more perfect union
It’s time for the real test
Our floor craft in the aftermath is where we take our first step
And when we get our rhythm down for equity and progress
We’ll set the stage across the page
An OUTward change…
to how we INvest
For this is not a classic case of noblesse oblige
Silence your mind until your heart speaks
awaken those who were happier asleep
Bring the best— you wish to manifest
Let your imagination speed
We are the changemakers
Keeping time with our heart beats
breaking barriers with our brilliant mindsUnlocking exclusivity
We speak life, then we put it into action
We speak RIGHT… so that nothing is LEFT to question.
… our conversations… hold cures
Our tongues, administer truth
Our actions the treatment of the sore
Starting at the root
We are doctors without borders
Innovating through synergy
Brainstorming without umbrellas
Immersed in possibility
We’ll figure out the formula that only the collective can provide
And show them how we get it done when ego steps aside
A more perfect union
A people more unified
A chance to multiply our impact in the face of great divide
The room received my words with all the passion and optimism I had put into writing and delivering them. People felt energized and the words, “now, more than ever” were echoed by several presenters through the day. It truly was an honor and a pleasure to present my small contribution to what I hope is overall change.Now, more than ever, we need to draw closer together in all of our intersectional communities, show support, show love, make real progress.Now, more than ever, the work is in our hands and the charge is with us to reflect and protect the beauty, richness and inclusiveness of the America that so many of us in this type of work have come to know and find worthy of our very best fight.