Kennedy Center Fellow audits 400 years of American Blackness in verse
With support from the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Baton Rouge-based writer, poet, and community activist, Donney Rose is exploring the debt owed to African American humanity in the United States with the creation of The American Audit – a poetry and mapping project assessing the nation’s standing with its black citizens 400 years after the first slaves settled in Jamestown. Placing a special emphasis on his own Louisiana/Deep South roots, Rose plans to culminate the project in a four-part multimedia performance piece/epic poem centered around the assessment of laws, culture, economics and family structure as it pertains to 400 years of black American existence using an audit report as extended metaphor, according to a blog post by The Kennedy Center. A 2018-2019 Kennedy Center Citizen Artist fellow, Rose is a native of Baton Rouge and a well-known performance poet whose career spans 20 years on the regional and national spoken word circuit.
“Human life, dignity and liberation are invaluable concepts,” Rose said. “Yet 400 years ago, there were people who put a dollar amount and expected a monetary return on account of free labor. We cannot reconcile with those sins until we are able to honestly admit that a segment of our population are still reeling from the effects of not having their humanity fully actualized until just over 50 years ago. The plan for The American Audit is to examine the emotional currency, toll, labor extolled unto a group of people who came here as products and have fought to be fully human.’”