Glenn North

Director of Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center and Poet

Where were you born and raised?
Kansas City, MO.

What is your occupation?
Director of Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center and poet.

What is your favorite childhood memory?
When the city began building 71 Highway they bought out several home owners in the urban core which included my grandparents. With the money they received they decided to buy a small farm in Bonner Springs, KS. I would spend the summers of my early childhood in Bonner watching my grandfather work the land and my grandmother assist him with the chores. They had every vegetable imaginable: greens, peas, beets, okra, tomatoes, corn - you name it. They also had many farm animals including chickens, cows, bulls, donkeys, horses, sheep and goats. We were eating farm-to-table meals before it was a thing. Our extended family would gather there for birthdays, barbecues, and other celebrations. I wish every child could experience the love, warmth, and security I was blessed with during those carefree years in Bonner Springs.

What does Black History Month mean to you?
Black History Month sheds a light on a too often neglected aspect of American History. It gives Black people the opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of our forbears and to gain a better understanding of ourselves in the process. We are all disenfranchised when any aspect of our shared history is ignored. It stands to reason that the more we learn about different cultures the closer we get to authentic equity and inclusion.

What do you believe is the most important issue currently facing the Black community?
I think economic empowerment is critical because it undergirds the ability for self-determination as it pertains to all the other issues the Black community is confronted with. In addition, a strong economic base would inevitably strengthen the Black family which, of course, is the primary building block of a strong community.

When did you realize you were Black in America and what has that meant for your life?
In the seventh grade when my best friend, who happened to be white, called me a Black bastard, I became keenly aware of my Blackness. Later in life, while attending an HBCU, I began to study the concept of white supremacy and how it affects every aspect of human activity. From then on I became committed to confront and combat racism.

Who or what is your biggest inspiration to push for change?
My biggest inspiration to push for change is my concern for future generations. I believe our forefathers envisioned and sacrificed life and limb to push America to live up to her promise of liberty and justice for all knowing fully well they would not necessarily experience the benefit of the rights they were fighting for. I feel compelled to do the same.

How have you supported or contributed to the local Black community?
As I poet, I try to use poetry as a tool for activism. The arts are critical to any struggle for equality. In addition, my work in cultural institutions such as the American Jazz Museum, the Black Archives of Mid-America, and currently the Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center, give me the opportunity to provide programming that educates the populace and raises the level of awareness of issues confronting the Black community.

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