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2nd Annual HEARTSongs: Inspiration Through Poetry

Our February 18, 2023 HEARTS event, HEARTSongs Horton to Hip Hop, was a big success, and we thank all of you who were able to join us for the launch of our second season. For those who missed it, it was an inspiring celebration honoring important works of poetry from yesterday and today, with a local twist.

HEARTS organizer Randolph Lewis set the tone for the event in his opening remarks, offering, “Poetry has power. Poetry is more real than reality. Poetry expresses more with less, each word an essential distillation." The program began with an introduction to George Moses Horton, the enslaved poet who played a role in the lives of prominent families in this area in the 19th century. Award-winning actor, playwright, and director Michael D. Connor interpreted Horton, sharing his life story through Don Tate's book, The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton, and dramatic readings of Horton's poetry.

While Richard Torrance was in school at the University of Chapel Hill in 1854, he commission Horton to write two acrostic love poems. One for Sophia Alexandar and another for Mary McClean. Local historian, John Blythe, researched the connections to these women, and their history was also shared at the event. Details on this research can be found here at this link, and copies of the original poems and transcripts can be found below.

Sophia Alexander and Mary McLean Research
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Following Connor, we were treated to an engaging and enlightening presentation by award-winning Davidson College English & Africana Studies Professor, Dr. Brenda Flanagan. Flanagan passionately and precisely examined the African American experience through poetry in the 19th and 20th centuries. Dr. Flanagan started with a reading from Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved and shared the tragic story of Margaret Garner, the inspiration for the story. She continued with readings of the poetry of Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, Nikki Giovanni, and Derek Walcott while offering her insight into their inspiration and artistry.

HEARTSong Readings by Dr. Brenda Flanagan

Baby Suggs, Holy’s sermon in the Clearing from Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved

Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise

Robert Hayden’s Those Winter Sundays

Nikki Giovanni’s Nikki-Rosa

Langston Hughes I, Too

Nikki-Giovanni’s Beautiful Black Men

Derek Walcott’s Love After Love

Al Young’s Conjugal Visit

Wrapping up the event was our musical guest, North Carolina native lyricist and rapper Blaza. In this family-friendly show, Blaza performed music from his pandemic project, a video game he developed called Woah Hero Breakout. During this interactive performance, Blaza engaged audience members both young and old. Special thanks to saxophonist King Whale for his stunning solos.

Big thanks to our HEARTS Circle members and community partner Lake Norman Realty for making these high-quality and informative programs possible. Please consider joining or renewing your membership today. Our important local historic sites and their stories depend on your support to protect, preserve, and share with the community now and in the future. We can't do it without YOU!

We hope you can attend and bring your friends to our next HEARTS event, “Irish Connections" on March 18th, 2023, highlighting local Irish connections. For many with Scots-Irish ancestry, the real story begins in Ireland in the early 18th century. Come learn more from guest speaker, Tabitha Wood, adjunct professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, who will share what was happening on the Emerald Isle before Hugh got on the ship to America along with tens of thousands of others.

Also featuring the Connick Irish dancers for two thrilling sets, and we’re very excited to welcome Davey Matias and Andi Hearn as our Irish-imbued musical talent. Free to the community, advance tickets available now at Events.


See below for additional resources:

Transcripts of the original acrostic poems by George Moses Horton commissioned by Richard Torrance, grandson to Hugh Torance, while a student at Chapel Hill. Copies of the original works follow the transcripts. The original poems are in archive at the University of North Carolina Charlotte Library.


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