Ecojustice Poetry in The BreakBeat Poets Anthologies
Keywords:Ecopoetics, Ecojustice, Hip hop poetry, African American
Ecological modes of thinking and an awareness of environmental (in)justice are becoming increasingly pronounced in the ethics and aesthetics of hip hop. One area in which the culture’s growing interest in ecology as practice and metaphor is particularly visible is hip hop poetry’s turn to ecojustice, or an intersectional concern with social and environmental justice, liberation, diversity, and sustainability. This article examines selected works from the first two volumes of anthologies published by Haymarket Books as part of their BreakBeat Poets series, focusing on three ecojustice-oriented poems that address animal rights, (un)natural disasters, and gentrification. Their authors–all Black women– draw from African American history and culture to illuminate the intertwined ideological, political, and economic dimensions of some of the most pressing humanitarian and environmental crises of today. Samantha Thornhill’s “Ode to a Killer Whale” takes the form of a poetic monologue by the fictional character of Kunta Kinte, revealing similarities between human and animal subjugation and inscribing animal liberation in the Black revolutionary tradition. Candace G. Wiley’s “Parcel Map for the County Assessor” re-members and re-creates a culture of place that permeated the speaker’s countryside childhood to present the larger-than-human cost of rural gentrification. Finally, Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie’s “Global Warming Blues” juxtaposes the personal and the elemental dimensions of climate change in a blues remix that advocates for ecojustice for the disenfranchised.
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