In Darryl Lorenzo Wellington’s poem, “How to Live with Racism, In Times Like These,” there’s no distinction between speaker and reader. We begin in the midst of painful physical sensations. “Become used to the feeling at all times,” he writes.
that the flesh,
flagellated, feverish puffiness
in particular the poignant places
where the vertebrae curves
is melting, melting, to butteriness gone to crap.
It’s about the physical and mental health effects of enduring racism over multiple generations. Like the other poetry, creative nonfiction, and a one-act play he’ll read live on Zoom on Sunday, Feb. 21, its themes are related to Black lives. The play, Black History Month, is a dramatic monologue from the point of view of a 14-year-old boy giving a Black history presentation at school.
“The audience is the classroom,” Wellington says. “And that’s all I’m going to tell you.”
Wellington is a Santa Fe-based writer who’s originally from Charleston, South Carolina. For 20 years, he’s written about race, arts, and culture, and his journalism has appeared in The Nation, The Guardian, Christian Science Monitor, and The Atlantic, among other publications. Currently, he’s a writing fellow at Community Change, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that supports low-income people of color.
“But lately, I’ve been focusing more on the creative writing side of writing,” he says. His first book of poems, Life’s Prisoners, was published by Flowstone Press in 2017, and he is at work on another.
This is Wellington’s second year doing a local event for Black History Month. In 2020, he says about nine people showed up to hear him speak at the Alas de Agua Art Collective. “This year is different.” The Black Lives Matter protests last summer seem to have changed the tone of people’s interest. “Oftentimes, for Black History Month, there is the sense that you have to justify the existence of Black History Month. But now, there is more enthusiasm and more focus on positive aspects of Black history — not just racism.”
For people who aren’t sure what Black History Month offers them, or how to get something worthwhile out of it, Wellington says to go online and read. “It’s a month of lists and facts and data meant to educate you. My recommendation is to memorize some of these things, and internalize them into a new worldview.”
Darryl Lorenzo Wellington reads Black History Month and new poetry and prose at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 21, live on Zoom, in a free event hosted by Teatro Paraguas (3205 Calle Marie, 505-424-1601). Register at teatroparaguas.org.