Free Daily Headlines


Set your text size: A A A

Teen poet inspires MLK Jr. audience

In a tribute to her grandmother's battle with breast cancer, an appreciation for overcoming poverty and a testimonial about the civil rights movement, the extraordinary slam poet Shanita Jackson lifted the crowd to its feet during the 13th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Unity program at Blue Ridge Community College today.

Shanita Ariona Monique Jackson — her full name — a 16-year-old Early College student at BRCC, had the crowd in the college Conference Hall spellbound with her tributes, humor and raw authenticity.
Having grown up in poverty in Asheville as a young girl, Shanita moved with her mother, Lotto Brown, to Fletcher. She attended Hendersonville Middle School. She has won acclaim for her slam poetry readings in regional competitions and nationally. Last year she created the Brave Legacies poetry slam program at BRCC for teenagers countywide.
"I just like to base them on life experiences," Shanita said after the program. "God blesses me to say something I feel needs to be said."
She said divine inspiration helps create her works of poetic commentary. Sometimes the words tumbled onto paper in a such a torrent that when she finishes, "I will look back and read it and say, that wasn't me."
In "Mammogram Monster" she paid tribute to her grandmother's battle with breast cancer. In "Redskin Potatoes," she reflects on her family's struggle to overcome poverty.She also performed "I Am My Own Shade of Brown" and "Dream Testimonial."

Her poems run several minutes each. If she really focuses, she said, she can memorize one in a day.
Shanita recognized both her mother, Lotto Brown, and her grandmother, Carolyn Jackson, during the program.
"She's never given me a problem," Brown said. "She's always listening for direction."
Gary Rivers, BRCC's director minority services, urged the audience to contribute to the scholarship fund operated by the Human Resources Council. Donations collected at the MLK event and throughout the year have funded scholarships for 45 recipients, Rivers said.
"I know who they are," he said, "and they are wonderful, outstanding young people. Hopefully, they'll cross your paths some day. They'll make good employees, good customers, good husbands and good wives."
Other performers besides Ms. Jackson were Krishnaveni Balakrishnan, BRCC's student body president; and Desean Jackson of Hendersonville High School.