Hosted by Underground Books, Jackie Robinson Poetry Day was a 4 hour show of poetry, storytelling, and music. Bob McNeil, of QBR books was the host of the event, while James Browning Kepple of Underground Books worked in capacity as the producer. Building on the first event in 2016, JRPD this year was able to draw more participation. With the support of Poets and Writer’s, there was much more publicity for this year’s occasion.
The event featured poetic chapbooks that were created for the children. Through the exercise, kids from the Central Harlem community learned how to create their own chapbooks of poetry using historic poets. Called the Harlem Renaissance Poetry Chapbook “Creation Station” they featured the works of famous poets like Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, and Gwendolyn Brooks. Underground Books having published many chapbooks of poetry it was nice to see them teaching the craft to the kids in the community. On a Saturday afternoon with nice weather, Central Harlem’s well-known Jackie Robinson bandshell became the stage for thoughtful poetry.
Among the poets featured Saturday afternoon were Jana Astanov, James Browning Kepple, Eartha Watts Hicks, Marc W. Polite, Gregg Dotoli, Olena Jennings, Robert Kramer, Bob McNeil, and the 2016 winner of the Jackie Robinson Poetry Day Award, Carla Cherry.
The Open Mic portion of the event had a number of people featured as well. Among the participants this year were Sherese Francis, Makeba Amira, Taneeka L. Wilder, Tanya Robinson, M.A. Dennis, and Ronald Bullins. Edgar Alan was on the guitar, providing music for the audience also. There was a Facebook live stream, so those who were not present could hear the poetry.
The 2017 winner of the Gregg Dotoli Poetry Award was Marc W. Polite, author of “Poetic Ruminations of Mr. Born Nice.”
Underground Books and QBR are both active literary outlets in the Harlem community. At the end of the show, the organizers announced their intention to organize the Jackie Robinson Poetry Day event for 2018.