African-American History Celebration and Poetry Jam

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Black History Month Collage by Phoenix House ClientPhoenix House Venice celebrates African-American History Month in style. Our second annual Annual African-American History Celebration and Poetry Jam, held on February 27, was coordinated by Phoenix House counselor La Tonya Smith, who ensured the participation of both clients and staff in an inspired and inspirational meeting of minds and hearts. The event began with remarks by Elizabeth Stanley Salazar, vice president and director of clinical services, and a reading by special guest poet Dr. Maja Trochimczyk, former Poet-Laureate of Sunland-Tujunga and senior director of planning and research at Phoenix House. The reading included a poem entitled “Feet” by Katerina Canyon, the first and only African-American Poet Laureate of Sunland-Tujunga, who enriched the community with many readings and other projects.  Dr. Trochimczyk then read two of her own poems, which included an element of audience participation.  One audience member later commented: “I did not know that poetry could be done like that. It was very exciting!”

La Tonya Smith then read the famous poem by Maya Angelou, “Still I Rise.” With is powerful refrain, the poem is a hymn to the perserverance in the face of adversity:

Poet Katerina Canyon

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.  

The most moving and touching segment of the celebration was created by the participants themselves. Phoenix House clients volunteered to prepare speeches, essays, and/or artwork about various historical figures, from the well-known (Nelson Mandela and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) to those who are still under-celebrated,  such as Ralph Bunche.  The audience then evaluated each presentation and the five winners received gift cards and books– including a sample issue of the Rattle Poetry Magazine and a book by two local poets, Marlene Hitt and Dorothy Skiles. The evening also included several music selections prepared by both clients and counselors and made possible by our Music Director, John Morabito. In acknowledgements, we should not forget the exquisite Soul Food dinner prepared by Phoenix House’s talented Chef, Lisa Burrell, and her staff. Overall, it was an enjoyable and successful celebration for the entire Phoenix House community.

If you or a loved one have encountered serious issues of drug abuse or alcoholism in your life, we are  here to help. Please do not hesitate to call our admission counselors at 1 888 671 9392.  A solution might be a phone call away!



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