“We do language. That may be the measure of our lives.”

—Toni Morrison

In honor of the fierce vision and singular legacy of Nobel laureate, Novelist, Essayist, Lecturer, Toni Morrison, The We Do Language Symposium features the broad diaspora of Vermont’s Black and allied poets, writers, activists, and artists of all genres. The We Do Language Symposium presents a comprehensive program of dynamic performances, lectures, workshops, panel discussions, exhibitions, and the statewide opportunity for Vermont artists of African descent to collectively bear witness to the excellence of our own humanity, and the indomitable sanctuary of our spirits, as is so brilliantly reflected through the works of Toni Morrison. All programming is free, and all are encouraged to attend. All donations are welcomed.

The programming is developing broadly, please check back for further updates.

  • Sunday 9/15 — Gathering of the Seeds, welcoming our sacred community, potluck picnic, Blanchard Beach, Oakledge Park, Burlington, VT, 12 – 6pm.
  • Monday 9/16 — Voices of Color Showcase at the Lit Club, Light Club Lamp Shop, 12 N. Winooski Ave., Burlington, VT, 8pm.
  • Tuesday 9/17 — Black Healing Workshop, creating safe space, as people of African descent, to creatively spiritually and socially thrive in Vermont, North Branch Café, 41 State Street, Montpelier, 4-6pm.
  • Wednesday 9/18Black Talk, open round-table discussion on the future of Black creative expression in 21st century Vermont, North Branch Café, 41 State Street, Montpelier, 4-6pm.
  • Thursday 9/19 — Film The Foreigner’s Home: Toni Morrison at the Louvre, followed by discussion, Kellogg Hubbard Library, 135 Main Street, Montpelier, 6pm.
  • Friday 9/20 — Text-Music, a free-improvisation workshop 2pm-4pm, exploring the spontaneous collaboration of music and the text of Toni Morrison, all instruments, all musicians welcome. Flying Wide, the group performance of Text-Music participants, at 8pm. Both events are at Community of Sound, 1 Main Street, Burlington.
  • Saturday 9/21 — The Salutation!, featuring a grand gala of readings from the works of Toni Morrison and a host of performances, including the poets Major Jackson, Rajnii Eddins, Reuben Jackson, poetry/jazz duo Jaguar Stereo, and a brilliant host of others! The Haybarn Theatre, Goddard College, Plainfield, 7pm.

Some of our featured presenters.

Afro-Jazz Artist KeruBo

KeruBo {featured 9/20 at the Community of Sound, Burlington} is a performing Afro-Jazz artist, originally from Kenya who now lives in the Burlington area. She has more than 20 years’ experience performing all over the world in music festivals. Her style of music is a blend of African Traditional Music, with inflections of Brazilian Samba/ Bossanova, Jazz, and Blues. KeruBo sings African folk music and Afro jazz, from African laments to more modern arrangements. Her influences are from generations of music artists and songwriters but more particularly – Achien’g Abura, Miriam Makeba, Dorothy Masuka and Nina Simon. She feels that these notable, strong-minded, female singers effectively used their music as a powerful medium to bring awareness to social issues and to rebuke social injustices. They sang candidly about issues without worrying about consequences. KeruBo’s music is about preserving African culture and heritage, while highlighting social issues affecting vulnerable minorities such as women and children.

Poet Major Jackson

Major Jackson {featured 9/21, @ The Haybarn Theatre, Goddard College}: Major Jackson is the author of four books of poetry, including Roll Deep (2015), Holding Company (2010), Hoops (2006) and Leaving Saturn (2002), which won the Cave Canem Poetry Prize for a first book of poems. He is the editor of Library of Americaʼs Countee Cullen: Collected Poems. A recipient of fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Guggenheim Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, Major Jackson has been awarded a Pushcart Prize, a Whiting Writersʼ Award, and has been honored by the Pew Fellowship in the Arts and the Witter Bynner Foundation in conjunction with the Library of Congress. He has published poems and essays in American Poetry Review, Callaloo, The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, Paris Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, Tin House, and included in multiple volumes of Best American Poetry. Major Jackson lives in South Burlington, Vermont, where he is the Richard Dennis Green and Gold University Distinguished Professor at the University of Vermont. He serves as the Poetry Editor of The Harvard Review.

Poet Rajnii Eddins

Rajnii Eddins {featured 9/16, @ The Lit Club, Burlington; and 9/21, @ The Haybarn Theatre, Goddard College}: Originally from Seattle Washington, Spoken Word Poet/ Emcee and Teaching Artist Rajnii Eddins has been engaging diverse community audiences for over 27 years. He was the youngest member of the Afrikan American Writers Alliance at age 11 and has been actively sharing with youth and community here in Vermont since 2010. His latest work, Their Names Are Mine, aims to confront white supremacy while emphasizing the need to affirm our mutual humanity.

Harmony Edosomwan

Harmony Edosomwan is a Nigerian-American author from the Bronx, NY. She is a senior at the University of Vermont. She is studying English and American Sign Language. Edosomwan is a recently published author! Her interactive poetry book, ‘Sad Black Girl’ is compiled of poetry, tips, illustrations, and music that speaks on her experiences as a black woman and dealing with mental illness.

Poet Reuben Jackson

Reuben Jackson {featured 9/21. @ The Haybarn Theatre, Goddard Colllege}: Reuben Jackson was born in Augusta, Georgia and grew up in Washington, DC. A music scholar and critic of national reputation, he was archivist and curator with the Smithsonian’s Duke Ellington Collection from 1989 to 2009; his music reviews have appeared in The Washington Post, Washington City Paper, Jazz Times, Jazziz, and on National Public Radio. He was host of Friday Night Jazz on Vermont Public Radio from 2012 until 2018 and makes frequent appearances on WPFW, Washington DC’s publicly-supported radio station dedicated to jazz and justice. Reuben Jacksonʼs recent collection of poems, Scattered Clouds: New & Selected Poems, is a volume of lyrical, emotionally forthright meditations on love, loss, and longing. The poems are often sobering, but they are not, to quote Langston Hughes, “without laughter.” Scattered Clouds contains the complete text of the author’s award-winning first collection, Fingering the Keys; his nationally lauded poem, “For Trayvon Martin”; and his wry, unabashedly romantic suite of ruminations on a long-time and deeply missed friend, the late barbershop owner Amir Yasin, and his widow Khadijah Rollins. These poems, exploring Amir’s late-life romance with Kadijah, became a national internet sensation. An introduction by poet Abdul Ali (Cave Canem alumni and author of Trouble Sleeping) places Jackson in his rightful context as a Black American poetry elder, who has influenced generations of younger poets with his musical wisdom as well as his poetry.

The poetry and jazz duo, Jaguar Stereo!, featuring Gahlord Dewald on the lion-headed double bass and poet Toussaint St. Negritude on the bass clarinet and poetry.

Toussaint St. Negritude {The We Do Language Symposium organizer, host throughout, featured 9/16, at the Lit Club, Burlington, VT; 9/20 at The Community of Sound, Burlington; and 9/21 @ The Haybarn Theatre, Goddard College}: Founder of the avant-garde jazz and poetry duo, Jaguar Stereo!, featuring Gahlord Dewald on double bass and Toussaint St. Negritude on poems and bass clarinet, San Francisco native, and long-term resident of northern Vermont, poet, bass clarinetist, composer, artist Toussaint St. Negritude is a former Poet Laureate of Belfast Maine, and has published throughout his career in such journals as The Michigan Quarterly Review, Birchsong, Philadelphia Stories, The Savannah Literary Journal, The Iʼve Known Rivers Project, The San Francisco Bay Guardian, and featured in The Vermont Arts Councilʼs monthly profile, I Am A Vermont Artist. Toussaint St. Negritude has also performed extensively, including the venues of The Koret Auditorium of the San Francisco Public Library, The Philadelphia Free Library, The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, The University of Houston, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE), The Village Voice (Paris), The Black Dot Collective (Oakland), The Loft (Minneapolis), The Belfast Public Library (Maine), and the Vermont venues of Bread & Puppets, The Spruce Peak Performance Arts Center, The Kellogg Hubbard Library, Goddard College, Catamount Arts, Sweet Melissaʼs, Charlie Oʼs, Buch Spieler Records, The Art Hop, Waking Windows, and Community of Sound. For further information, upcoming publications, and performances please do consult the website: www.toussaintstnegritude.com.

The We Do Language Symposium is organized by Toussaint St. Negritude. For further programming information, please contact Toussaint St. Negritude at stnegritude@gmail.com