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‘Enough’ Showcases Poetry And Protest Art

Page 25 in "Enough"
Via Ronald Montgomery
"Enough: Say Their Names..." pairs images and writing from sources around the United States.

In the days following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, St. Louis-born poet and activist Ronald Montgomery happened upon the inspiration for his latest project in an unlikely place: a news interview with a corporate executive.

Randall Stephenson, who was CEO of AT&T at the time, publicly urged corporate America to step up and leverage its influence to address systemic racism. As a contractor for AT&T himself, Montgomery was proud to hear those remarks — and wanted Stephenson to know it.

Soon, Montgomery was giving talks within the AT&T organization about the work it takes to combat racism and push for progress. But it didn’t feel sufficient.

“I thought it was incumbent on me to actually do" what he was talking about, he told St. Louis on the Air. “I could not just sit around and do nothing.”

Montgomery flew to Minneapolis to visit the place where Floyd died. Then he headed to Washington to march with other protesters in the nation’s capital. And the weekend after that he was in Portland, Oregon, where the uprising for Black lives continued to gain steam this summer.

When he got home, he had a huge number of photographs — and a plan for putting them to powerful use. Sharing them with other writers in his circles, Montgomery asked each of them to pick five to seven pictures and “write to the messages of the protesters.” The effort took off from there. Six months later, it’s all come to fruition in the form of the newly released volume “Enough: Say Their Names…,” a 226-page, full-color compilation of protest art and poetry.

The book includes striking work bya handful photographers, eight authors and a designer, all of whom donated their talents and time to the cause. It also features the ringing endorsement of Nikki Giovanni, one of America’s foremost poets.

Giovanni’s response to an early draft now adorns the book’s back cover:

“As much as this may make you angry or, in reality, hurt your heart. As much as you may wish your fellow and sister Americans were better people but recognizing they are not. As much as you ask the Lord to forgive you for your hate, this is a book you should read. You will not get ENOUGH of the truth.”

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske talked with Montgomery about the book and the hopes he and his co-authors have for it. Several other poets whose pieces appear in the volume also shared their pieces on the air and in online extras. You can listen to them below:

Marilyn Johnston
Marilyn Johnston lives in Salem, Oregon. Her background is in human rights. She acknowledged that “as much as we think we have been involved in the struggle, we realize how much we still have to learn and to teach others.” She told us her poem “What Matters” is about “the pain and frustration that shot through this country for centuries, and the price that we pay for not understanding what has brought us to these times."
Ronald Montgomery
St. Louis-born poet and activist Ronald Montgomery talks about and reads his poem "Get Ready To Hear!"
Annie Benjamin
Annie Benjamin lives in Dallas, Texas. She’s a longtime performer and songwriter. She told us this project challenged her to think about racial justice issues in new ways. Here she shares her poem “Papacito.”
Lawrence Diggs
Lawrence Diggs is a poet in South Dakota. He’s on the board of directors for the South Dakota State Poetry Society and tries to promote poetry around the state as a way of communication. Here’s how he explained the idea behind his poem “Kneecapped.”
Diane Ashburner
St. Louisan Diane Ashburner told us that when there’s not a pandemic, her job involves managing excursions for a cruise company. It’s currently not operating for obvious reasons. She called her extra time and recent involvement in the “Enough” book a real gift. It’s allowed her to do a deep dive into her own biases and her background growing up. Here, she reads her poem “Sidelined No More.”

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Evie was a producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.