Poetry of respect will be the focus of a presentation near the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting of the Topeka City Council.
Mayor Larry Wolgast will present the Topeka Human Relations Commission’s Troy Scroggins Award to Topeka poets Annette Hope Billings and Dennis Etzel Jr. during the meeting, which begins at 6 p.m. in the council chambers at 214 S.E. 8th.
The human relations commission indicated in a news release that it’s working with ARTSConnect to recognize Billings and Etzel, whose “strong message of tolerance and justice is touching and educating the public.”
Billings and Etzel often work together as a team, the release said.
Sarah Fizell is executive director of ARTSConnect, the only citywide organization focused solely on promoting the arts, in all formats, in Topeka.
The award involved is named for Troy Scroggins, a longtime Topeka civil rights activist who died in 2013 at age 80.
Scroggins was executive director of the Kansas Commission on Civil Rights, worked for the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and worked with housing issues for the Department of Housing and Urban Development and with the NAACP.
Billings is an African-American poet, playwright, actress and nurse whose readers have dubbed her the “Maya Angelou of the Midwest,” according to the human relation commission’s news release.
It said she’s written plays, short stories and two books of poems. One, “A Net Full of Hope,” received the 2015 Arty Award for Literature from ARTSConnect.
Etzel teaches English at Washburn University and is a TALK Scholar for the Kansas Humanities Council. His first poetic memoir — “My Secret Wars of 1984,” published in 2015 — was selected by The Kansas City Star as a Best Poetry Book of 2015.
Etzel’s “Fast-Food Sonnets,” published in 2016, is a 2017 Kansas Notables Book.
The human relations commission attached to its news release this poem by Billings:
What You Allow Lingers
What you allow, lingers,
what you invite, stays put,
so speak rudely to discord
and its sullen sisters,
turn a cold shoulder to bigotry
in all its disguises,
ignore the doorbell when jealousy rings,
and stop violence at the door — like a stranger.
usher in joy like a long lost friend —
take its coat, its hat
chat up passion,
give the guest room to justice.
Sweep the porch
and place a welcome mat for goodness,
make your life poorly-suited
for anything but love.
and when hate knocks, act like you’ve moved!
Contact reporter Tim Hrenchir at (785) 295-1184 or email@example.com.