Putting words on paper has always been easy for Penny Meacham. Getting up in public and reading them, however, was a whole different story.
A native of Long Island and a resident of Schenectady, Meacham will read an excerpt from her second book of poetry, “Daughters of Dust and Divinity,” at 2 p.m. Saturday at First Presbyterian Church in Rensselaer. The program is part of a series of events called ‘Crailofest’, which will include an open day at Crailo State Historic Park in Rensselaer.
‘Crailofest: a celebration of African culture in the New World’
O: Crailo State Historic Site, 91â2 Riverside Ave., and First Presbyterian Church, 34 Broadway, Rensselaer
WHEN: Saturday. Doors open 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. performance event 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $ 6, children under 12, $ 1
MORE INFO: 463-8738, www.nysparks.com/historic-sites/30/fees-rates.aspx
While Crailo (often referred to as Fort Crailo) will only open for the season on Wednesday, visitors to the open house will have the opportunity to view the site’s new exhibit, “A Dishonorable Business: Global Human Trafficking. Dutch Atlantic. ”
âWe seek to honor our elders and our ancestors,â Meacham said, referring to both his work and the Crailo exhibit. âMy particular poetry is about appreciating black history and our culture, and dealing with the issues that we still deal with today regarding race. The exhibit helps us honor those who came before us. We honor them for surviving and giving us the tools to face life. Even though they are not there for us, we still remember.
While she has written much of her life, Meacham only started performing in public about five years ago.
âI realized that trying to speak my poetry at open mic events was another way to spread the word,â she said. âNow I take care of organizing other open mike events and getting people to stand up and tell their story. I tell them, ‘if I can do it, you sure can.’ You don’t have to be so brave. You only do what you have to do.
When Meacham realized she needed a little push to get up in front of an audience, she joined Donald “The Soul Man” Hyman’s cast of actors, knowing the time would come and that the time would come. ‘she would have her opportunity.
âI heard about him, I saw him at an event, and I thought maybe some of his bravery rubbed off on me,â she said of Hyman, who, in addition to performing, directing and producing his own plays, is also a well-known historical reenactor.
âI volunteered to be his assistant, knowing that someday someone would step down and say, ‘Penny, we need you.’ He said to me: ‘don’t worry about this, everything will be fine.’ I had never played, but I’ve been pretty busy since.
At Saturday’s event at First Presbyterian Church, Meacham’s idea is to give his poetry some theatricality. She will be accompanied by a small troupe of actors that she created herself and called Black Diamonds.
âThe idea is not just to read my poetry, but to make it come alive,â she said. “We’re going to create scenes around my poems and string them together to tell a story.”
Contact Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or [emailÂ protected]
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