UrbanArtistry is a nonprofit program, (supported by the Claude Harvard Foundation), dedicated to bringing art to young and old in the most interesting ways. This journal will have comments from those participating in the first UrbanArtistry workshop in Detroit, Michigan as well as the other events to follow. UrbanArtistry:Detroit creative focus is POETRY. Come journey with us as we explore the arts and contribute to the greatest good!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

UrbanArtistry 2016?!?!?!?


It has been some time since I've posted news about UrbanArtisty (like 6-yeas), which is sad. However, this is not sad - I'm posting today! UrbanArtistry, a program designed to help young people creatively invest in their city/town by using their communities as classrooms will happen again! Hopefully in 2016 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

A partnership with Creative Youth Center is underway. Now, if we can't make UrbanArtisitry happen in 2016, you should not wait - BUT - go check out the youth organization right now by Clicking Here for their website and watch their video

Thursday, December 24, 2009

It's Alive...

Okay, every semester my place of employment (Grand Rapids Community College) has a program called Learning Day. This year we're doing something related to UrbnaArtistry! Can ya believe it?

We've partnered with the Grand Rapids Public Museum (because we're getting smart about using the resources in our own backyard) for our learning day. The session I'm attending is called - The Museum as City and City as Classroom: A Discussion about the Community as a Place of Learning"

Yes, whoa that is so UrbanArtistry, I thought! The session's facilitators are Kimberly Overdevest, my college from the Visual Arts department at GRCC and Tom Bantle of the Museum. Check out our Public Museum at: http://www.grmuseum.org/

I hope this session will help me revive enough energy and iedas to create a Grand Rapids area UrbanArtistry project!

Monday, October 06, 2008


at 6:25 Monday morning, September 22nd, I swipe
my flimsy good for 31 days irreplaceable if torn transit card
and I, along with two other early riders
take our pick of seats on the #4. I sit
my overstuffed work bag in the seat next to me. Opening
my twice renewed A Hungry Heart,
I fall into Parks’ words. Speeding
down 60th street I pay no attention to my wonderful
world of options, despite my gripes about students,
the attempted care for my mother, gas prices, other
peoples choice of friends I sit there reading, forgetting
the car I drive everyday to the bus stop. I sit there
unnoticing the people piling onto #4. They dump
change, smooth dollar bills for
insertion, prop purses of infinite
design backgrounds atop the fare machine for ritualized
routine searches, some give
themselves intimate body searches looking for fares. Then
the search turns to the increasingly crowded
aisles for a seat. My actions support selective awareness, I’m not
completely unaware just tuned much out, I remove
my bag from the seat next to me so someone
can sit down. There is always someone
needing to sit down, even the turning pages of my book
know that
but this many at 6:40 am? I pull my head
up from the pages and am struck claustrophobic
the crowd has jammed the #4 nearly airless. Then
I see him sitting sideways on an aisle seat, backpack
plopped on his lap. He’s #4’s youngest predawn passenger and
he’s comfortable in the ride. He’s neat. Maybe twelve? Searching
the personal space around him, it appears he rides alone
searching for answers about his early morning
public transportation ride, my eyes move
across his face much faster then the sun’s slow melting
of darkness around us. Like me, he’s too brown
to be black and in that we share thinking ways always
catching us between worlds. It’s not until my gaze falls
on the stitching in the upper left-hand corner of his
school-blue shirt that answers come before the words, I
see the ins and outs
made by thousands of little holes where
sea-deep blue threads enter and exit the fabric
marking curves, angles and lines forming letters
forming two words I finally read
St. Andrews. So he’s up early because
he’s going somewhere. Like me and all
the others when you come
straight from Busboyovia
there is no place for you to go but somewhere.

--by Mursalata Muhammad
--Written for Gordon Parks presentation 9/26/08 @ Grand Rapids Art Museum

Thursday, December 20, 2007


it seems I cannot sleep until I write something
my mind is dying
from under work
that stimulate colors of conjoined words
in syllables surprised by meeting
I like them most
coming together in cautious
discovering bitty-small lemon flavors
that remind a tongue of life
funky tangy life ordinary
workdays have tried to black & white out
of me until my can’t close my eyes until
I remember something about how
blood flows through veins just to get someplace it’s been before
but not in its current
not with these particles of oxygen making
it the same and not and the old
roads through my old
body new and the same at once
pushing these frantic brown fingers into the
qwerty’s keys
a musician come mad rambling not notes but letters
hard into the make-believe page wishing it where
Writer-typed banging impressions these fingers could run over
run down continuously until sleep trips all over me completely
submerging my body to the rhythm
the letters create under my fingertips
once I’m done composing for sleep and lay there
running over and over and over the page
Expelled into REM happiness

an original poem by Mursalata

Monday, July 24, 2006

Octavia Butler's Last Interview?


Last October a young high school student interviewed Octavia Butler (see pics below). She was a bit flustered by the technology she was using to record the interview and only managed to get part of the interview. This interview was part of a radio program the student was participating in and our trip to Chicago gave her the perfect opportunity to get a story (after her mother and I almost exhausted ourselves encouraging her to ask for the interview). Several few weeks later, she returned the borrowed equipment back to the Community Media Center and now the mystery is what happened to the recording?

I’d been sort of half-heartedly after her to write up a story about what may have been the last interview with Octavia Butler. Trying not to pressure her too much (wow I've learned my lesson next time I'll be on her like eminem on a rap lyric!).

Once I got serious about getting after the young lady and my hands on the recording, I found out that the recording just/mostly has been erased. Now aint that a bowl of kiwi?!?!?!?!

There is a glimmer of hope that the recording is just lost and not erased. I’m on it and will report my findings soon.

Butler October and Young Interviewer October 2005

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Octavia Butler and Young Minds/Deborah Santana Too

A few pics from the autograph line @ the 15th Annual Gwendolyn Brooks Writer's Conference inChicago 10/22/05

More from The Conference...Sterling Plummp, Lemont Stepto, Haki Madhubuti, & Dr. Keith Giyard


Just a note to add more Pictures from the 15th annual Gwendolyn Brooks Writer's Conference. 10/22/05

Monday, October 24, 2005

15th Annual Gwendolyn Brooks Writer's Conference


Place: Chicago State University, Chicago IL
Date: October 22, 2005
Purpose: Celebrate a slew of Literary writers with emphasis on OCTAVIA BUTLER

It's 9am and not many people fill the Rotunda. 9:45am brings scholars Sandra Govan and others to conversation around the life, work, and influence of Octavia Butler. Some of us (myself-Mursalata, my two daughters, Felicia and her mom Angie) listen interestingly while others play GameBoy AdvanceSP's to what the first round of scholars have to say about Ms. Butler. It is a good listening occasion until the dialogue turns into a "Let's read our essays on Bulter's works" session. This is the point I see my opportunity exist open. So I take it. We leave so I can begin my trade off with my children... to the American Girls Store we go.

Some time there and I'll have a deaf ear for them if/when they begin to complain about the remainder of the conference schedule. We arrive at the American Girls Store and my mind is assaulted, heavily and relentlessly, by commercialism. I'm dumbfounded by sights and sounds of this over-priced simulation of whole-someness. Still I fulfill my duty and will return someday better prepared for the madness.

Back at the conference, consumerism satisfied, gamboys, video and camera ready to receive the next minutes that bring us closer to Ms. Butler-- I wait.

She walks slowly, luminously into the rotunda. I know something has changed in the air. Is it lighter? Brighter? Nope, but it sure seemed smarter in the room. She's introduced by words that mean little to those who've read her work. She walks to the tables set in front of us all; her movements segmented, calculated for a time suitable to them and her height.

She opens the dialogue with discussion about doubts on whether she'd have another novel completed in this life time. These are words, I didn't expect to hear, this also reminded me I had no expectations except to know I must see her because she's growing old and after all August Wilson just died under my nose. Her voice, low, steady, measured brought some words I expected, but hoped not to hear from my youngest daughter...

"Is she a girl or a boy?"

"Ah," I replied, "the question of gender and what makes is need to know my child is one of the many subjects explored in Ms. Butler's work."

Without blinking for far too long, my daughter stared at me so I took the hint and just said,

"Yeah, she's a girl."

"Oh, that's what I thought" and our gender issue was over.

Anyway, back to Ms. Butler. She signed every book placed in front of her, even when the guy with 7 or 8 books was next in line, she signed them all. When Felicia, a 13 year old radio reporter asked for an interview, she was not denied. Ms. Butler invited her to call the next day at 1pm for an interview (Mental note check to see if Felicia called).

her most important insights, for me, where those on writer's block. Yes it happened just keep writing. And on research for writing, don't be surprised about how much you may have to do to complete your projects.

This year's writer's conference was great. I bought books, took pictures and had conversations with so many of my S/heros: Octavia Butler, Lemont Stepto, Sterling Plummp. Got to meet new folks on the literary scene: Deborah Santana, Jaisia and others. I finally got a copy of the movie The Spook Who Sat By the Door and Toot & Blow the directorial debut by an up & coming Director. I even got to talk to the cool/hip/critic poet Keith Gilyard. The big bonus... My poem Giddy Muslim Girls appears in this year's journal Warpland.

Next year I hope to be there and take more young people to experience this literary celebration!

Monday, September 19, 2005

It's been a minute!


Much thanks from me to Ms. Brown for being the first official buyer of my chapbook and additional kudos to Ms. Dykgraaf, English instructor, for including the book as part of her required reading list. I look forward to visiting her class and answering student questions, addressing their comments or returning blank stares in regards to my poetry.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Experiencing the SLAM


UrbanArtistry: Detroit not only gave the local young poets new experiences but me too! April 1, 2005 I happened to be in town on a qualifying night for the chance to make the Detroit's Slam team. Hey, I'd never participated in one before yet heard good to not so good things about them from older established poets. Before I could add my two cents I thought I needed to participate and get that investigative first hand experience. Well, to my surprise (luck, quality of other performer poets, and whimsy of judges) I made it to the semi-finals. After being told to come to the Max at 8:30 on the 15th I left the Meetery Eatery.

I arrived at the Max on April 15, 2005 and was promptly disqualified because I was late. After paying my $10 and demanding a valid reason for my disqualification, I was told I'd been contacted via email and phone about the time change. I never got an email and I realized after listening to my messages the phone call came on the day of the competition. I also realized I'd would have never been able to rearrange my life on such short notice to make the 2.5 hour drive to the city, but hey I was here mainly for the slam experience. My fate as a participant was put to a vote of the other competing poets. They let me participate and I got the great opportunity

I lost and I won. Now I know what my two cents are about slams... I love every part of them except the randomness of the judges. I mean I don't play the lottery or otherwise gamble with my heard earned money, so why would I subject my poetry to the scrutiny of randomly picked fleas?

I was most shut down by one former "judge" (she'd "judged" me in the qualifying round) who approached me after the Max event and said, "I'm surprised. You did better than I thought you would."

Though I thought "Fleas think?" my curiosity had me ask, "Why would you say that?"

Her reply: "You don't sound Detroit enough."

True, I don't live in the city any more but before I left I lived on Pennslyvania, the BLVD, Grandy, Steel, Lennox, Wayburn, Medbury, Elgin, Charles, etc... so I realized fleas don't think but they should before they speak.

Next Steps


It has been close to a month since the UrbanArtistry event in Detroit. Since then I've been planning the next one for Grand Rapids, editing the collection from the young Detroit poets, and trying to figure out money. I hope to have the collection UrbanArtistry: Detroit City Poems available somewhere for you to buy soon (in the city and possibly by mail).

Friday, April 01, 2005



I'm exhausted and broke, but still happy to get UrbanArtistry started. If you're reading the other posts you see the workshop participants come with various views. This week has been extremely busy. I hope all the poets are finding this a good way to spend their spring break and I look forward to our poetry reading this Sunday, April 3, 2005 at Borders bookstore in Downtown Detroit.

The best events of this week for me has been seeing young poets try new things, like humus and curry chicken! So far, the poets are doing great. Today we discussed the poets handbook from Haki Madhubuti's newest work Run Toward Fear their comments are both insightful and funny. I hope to have clips of our week up on the blogg (as well as pictures) in the near future. So check back with the blogg and write your comments to any of our posts.

Thank you.

I gotta go to bed now because tomorrow it's the Detroit Institute of Arts and writing to get ready for our reading on Sunday.

Thursday, March 31, 2005



This experience has been very helpful in seeing the full potential of self expression through poetry.

I think this program has helped me so far in knowing a meaning and purpose of poetry.

The literature the we received is essential to a young poet. Something that would help this program is more reading of our poetic works and commentary and critique.

The topic of the city is good and I think the chance to present our work is perfect.



isn't it just like a N to go into an ethnic restaurant for lunch & order native food. I should have ordered Eastern & at one point I did but felt it was not going to be enough to fill me or sustain me during the afternoon on the quest to "still we rise".

My only disappointment among my travels to the Historical Museum, the library,Hart Plaza, & MAAH was the photographic exhibit of various African countries with photos that seemed as if they were taken with a throw away camera, blown up out of proportion, to an eerie blurriness, with poor lighting & shadows in places shadows should not rest.

The vast history of Blackness in Detroit is something to behold & cherish. It makes me wish that I had written down all those stories of southern living & relocation that dead aunts & uncles used to recite as if on stage in from of an audience of unknowing.

Makes me want to revisit my past with pen in hand & paper and take it all down for the future generation.

Makes me long 2B apart of Detroit but even more, makes me want 2 study the history of my own hometown which is just as prosperous & just as rich with the manufacturing industry, a huge middle class Black population & home ownership galore.

One trip to any establishment of higher learning is the catalyst one needs to begin or continue that journey of knowing & preserving something we must teach those after us to do on a continuum.

UrbanArtistry is for everyone.

Ashley O.

In the UrbanArtistry program I've met different people and learned about their different techniques of writing. This experience has been a great expedition. It enhanced my writing vocabulary. My writing has come along great and I would like to thank UrbanArtistry for taking my Spring break to attend the program.

Throughout this whole week UrbanArtistry has taken us on different trips. The first was Downtown Detroit. We went to hart Plaza and inside the Renaissance Center to get a different perspective of Detroit in our own eyes. The next day we went to the Detroit Hisotorical Museum to look at the automobiles and other manufacturing industries. A day after that we went to the Detroit main Library. WE got on the computers and did some research about what we took notes on the 1st day.

Today we're here at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. Learning more and more each day the way we understand out past. The more we understand our past, the more we can learn from it and create a better future for our people to live in.

This is my perspective, my view, and my life. What I have learned this past week has been an adventure.

Ashley P. "THe One and Only"

Today is Thursday, April 31, 2005. This is my fourth day out with UrbanArtistry. Today we went to Chalres H. Write Museum of African American History. I really enjoyed myself. It was the first time I ever visited the museum. When you first walk in there is a circle where you can make an echo.

I had an experience I will never forget. The way everything was set up was as if you actually were back in the days of slavery.


Visiting the Charles H.Wright Museum of African American History:

What I have learned from this is how everything came to be for us. Living through struggles and striving for freedom. I have seen the way things used to be, how it had changed and how we had contributed to the making of the future.


What I like about the museum is...
learning about the past when there was slavery. I learned about FRederich Hart Williams, he was a famous poet.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The One and Only

What do I call original?Urban Artistry.This is my second day out with the group and what we have done so far has been relaxing yet exciting.The excitement will always be within all of us especially when we start something new.Personally I think that as this program continues to grow it will be a success in the distant yet near future.The leadership is a key thing. So far form what I see, we have a good leader.Also, please excuse me for not properly introducting myself my name is Ashley.

The Man

Hey! my name's Devante I'm 12 yrs. old and here what I like about Urban Artistry? Writing poetry about different things, learning about my city like the staues called the Gateway to Freedom, the Step of the Dance and Joe Louis' Fist. I learned about Old Detroit at the Historical Museum. At first I didn't like poetry but now I enjoy writing it becuase I put my thoughts down on paper instead of holding them in. So, that's it for now until I think of something else.

Monday, February 21, 2005

The Tension

Preparing the first UrbanArtistry event (in hopes that there will be more) is a truly exhausting, stressful experience… yet I trudge on. The tension packed knots, the size of baseballs in my neck and shoulders have yet to deter me. So what I can’t sleep, I’ve little money, and am jumpy at every turn in this inaugural journey – I will simply do my best and see what happens (a lesson John Henrik Clarke said he learned from Malcolm X).

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Getting Ready

Well, we've got funding in place now it's time to wait and see what happens with the first UrbanArtistry event in Detroit. I'm very anxious and want to see this event grow and travel around the country. Hopefully the kids wil have dynamic entries to post regarding their participation in UrbanArtistry 2005. For a little more information check out our very, very, very modest website at...


summum bonum