MSR attended the fall reading of the NorthSide Writers Group (NSWG) at their invitation on Friday evening, September 26, at Homewood Studios on Plymouth Avenue in North Minneapolis. NSWG’s mission is to dispel the notion that “There were no artists, no writers living and working in North Minneapolis. On the contrary, there were many, but they were not connected with each other; nor were they visible or regarded as community resources. NorthSide Writers Group has worked to change that perception, to connect writers of all genres, and to introduce these talented writers to the larger Northside community.”
NSWG has launched The Truth of Myth, their first chapbook “inspired by the paintings of Chicago artist Joyce Owens.” Its $10 price will fund the publishing costs of NSWG’s future writing collections.
One attendee, known as “Kimber-Love,” told MSR she’s “been writing since the third grade” and wanted “to connect with other writers.” She found out about this event through the Urban League. Members of another group, the Tuesday Night Writers Group, were invited as guest readers, and the audience members as well were invited to read their own or another’s work.
Readers were encouraged to honor (“I’m following those who came before me”) each previous reader by making a connection between readings, a practice referred to as “moo-shira.” There were about a dozen readings, and twice that many people were seated in the clean, well-lit room that included a display called “Navigating Our Mississippi River Community” made up of drawings and stories by Twin Cities teens, arranged on ceramic boats on a diagonal on the studio’s inner wall.
Listeners were patient; the mood was respectful and quiet. Some readings triggered laughter, others an empathic sigh. One of the readers, an Upton Avenue resident, said her “story dropped into my spirit.”
When “Antkni,” an NSWG member, sang his poem, it became performance art. Another reader used — and titled — her poem as prayer, while a third read his work off an electronic hand-held device.
One poem, written from a child’s perspective, was a child’s wish that s/he were the T.V. or the drugs, or the alcohol, or the lottery or the vogue fashions parents pay so much attention to. The poet wished that parents would lavish that much attention on a child.
Colnese Hendon read about a father who bewails the loss of his son (“I left my son in the projects to die”) at his son’s funeral. One reader told us that the lesson in her short story was, “Don’t put [your dreams] off for too long.”
NSWG co-founder Debra Stone’s reading revealed life in North Minneapolis circa 1952, with mention of the historic Phyllis Wheatley House and General Hospital (now HCMC) and Mt. Sinai Hospital as being the only hospitals that would admit Blacks.
When asked if the Plymouth Avenue location of Homewood Studios was a risk — the theme of this event was “risk-taking” — co-founder George Roberts said, “No. We’ve had no problems. We let people know what we were about. We invite people in.” Homewood Studios has been in operation since 1999, and NSWG is now celebrating its eighth year.
Roberts referred to the “power of active writing” and said he has lived in North Minneapolis for 30 years. “Art,” he said, “makes life more livable.”
For more information about the writer’s group or Homewood Studios, contact George Roberts at 612-587-0230, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.homewoodstudios.com, or 2400 Plymouth Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55411.
Elizabeth Ellis welcomes reader responses to email@example.com.