Countering Dominant Narratives: Poetry As Visionary Resistance

Facilitated by Tawana Petty

In this session, we walked through a historical journey of the impact that anti-Black narratives have had on policy and technological decisions imposed upon cities like Detroit. We learned the ways that poetry and other forms of visionary resistance have served to counter those narratives, model alternatives, and shift hearts, minds and policy. The residents collaborated in the creation of a poem about what safety meant to them. Each resident contributed two lines.

SAFETY, A poem.

Safety is the watched watching the watchers
Safety is me as the lord of my creations
In the living room, Dad cutting mangoes with a cup of tea
While mom watches Hindi serials and cats sleep
To amble along the street, lost in my thoughts immersed in its textures
To feel free, unnoticed and yet loved
Four walls and a roof, dancing with no pants on, without care
Three stoves and a toilet, cooking with no budget, occasionally a drink

To counter the cold of exclusion
Do you submit to the warmth of rage
To be safe is to be dangerous together
A thicket of thorns in the side of terrible injustice
A mask inwards is a mask is a mask is a mask inwards towards the mask inside
Where prying eyes are limited to our own
To be transparent like spit in the wind
How comfortable you must be in your little bubble

The Facilitator

Tawana "Honeycomb" Petty is a mother, social justice organizer, youth advocate, poet, and author. She is intricately involved in water rights advocacy, data and digital privacy rights education, and racial justice and equity work. She is the National Organizing Director at Data for Black Lives, former director of the Data Justice Program at Detroit Community Technology Project, co-founder of Our Data Bodies, a convening member of the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition, an anti-racism facilitator with Detroit Equity Action Lab, a Digital Civil Society Lab fellow at the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (PACS) and director of Petty Propolis, a Black woman-led​ artist incubator primarily focused on cultivating visionary resistance through poetry, literacy and literary workshops, anti-racism facilitation, and social justice initiatives.