The annual Behold, Here Cometh the Dreamer event will be held Jan. 21 at the Averitt Center for the Arts. Featured speaker this year is Dr. Stacy Smallwood.
Held each year, the event celebrates the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through the spoken word, giving local writers and poets the stage to perform their work. Featured poets this year include Dr. Meca Williams-Johnson, Adrianne McCollar, Francys Johnson, Madison McCollar, Landon Young and Thurgood Johnson.
Smallwood is an associate professor at Georgia Southern University, in the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health, and is also affiliate faculty in the Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies program at GSU. His graduate instruction is in health promotion, education and behavior, and his specialized training is in the area of HIV/AIDS prevention. Smallwood focuses his research on promoting equity in health and well-being among marginalized communities.
He completed his undergraduate work at Wake Forest University, and later earned a PhD from the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, South Carolina. He also completed a postdoctoral research fellowship in the I. DeQuincey Newman Institute for Peace and Social Justice in the College of Social Work at USC. He has taught at Georgia Southern since 2014.
Smallwood is the moderator for Bulloch County Beloved Community, a grassroots organization with the purpose of building connections across lines of social difference in Statesboro and the surrounding area. He is also vice-chair of One Boro, the city’s commission for diversity and inclusion in Statesboro.
When speaking to the importance of the Behold, Here Cometh the Dreamer event in the Boro, Smallwood said it’s important to not only commemorate Dr. King’s birthday, but also take the opportunity to remember the past and those who have come before us.
“It’s an opportunity for us to, No. 1, remember the voices and the sacrifices that have been made in order for us to have made the progress that we have, and also recognizing how much further we have to go,” he said.
Smallwood said he loves that the event allows for exploration around those topics while still providing a platform for local voices, as well as spotlighting prominent African-American artists and writers.
“I love that it allows us to share our own authentic experiences,” he added. “I think that it is very valuable to the fabric of this community. It helps us to see each other more accurately, to build empathy across lines of difference, and I’m just honored to be part of an event that celebrates not only such a rich legacy, but also really highlights the artistic contributions of those who live here in our own community.”
The event, he said, is so much more than just another date on the calendar because it showcases voices that don’t normally get heard.
“Black artists have made so many meaningful contributions,” he said. “Through writing, through poetry, through music and so many other media, but they haven’t always been highlighted. They haven’t always had the option of being heard on larger platforms. So it’s really great to have a space like this for new artists to emerge to show their own work, but also give life to the words that have been penned by our ancestors and those that have gone before us, those that have really pioneered the sharing of voice. I’m just very excited to be able to make a contribution to that.”
As for what he plans to share on the night of the event, Smallwood is keeping much of it under his hat. But he will say that he plans to share his own original poetry and spoken word. He has performed on the national level in years past and is excited to do so again.
“Part of this journey for me is kind of rediscovering the voice and the way that I exercised it, back then. But also, I am writing some new pieces, so I’m going to be sharing some of my existing poetry and I’m also writing some new pieces specifically for the occasion. I really want to take us on a pathway to explore what it means to dream. What do we dream for ourselves as individuals? What do we dream for ourselves as a community? What do we dream as a people? Particularly in the African-American experience, what is it that we dream for ourselves and others?” he said.
When asked what his own dream is, Smallwood pauses a moment to reflect, saying that he has several.
“I think it is important to note that our dreams can come true, if we take action, if we allow ourselves and give ourselves the courage to be able to believe in them, and just envision something different. I think that one of the gifts, particularly of the African-American experience to America is the ability to look at things and see what they are, but also imagine what they can be,” he said.
He shared that his dream for Statesboro and Bulloch County is that the community will become a space where everyone can live their authentic lives.
“To have a space where everyone has the space and ability to be themselves and live their optimal lives, space for those who might have been marginalized to be celebrated rather than diluted or hidden. That’s my dream for Statesboro and Bulloch County,” he said.
Behold, Here Cometh the Dreamer begins at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 21. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased online at www.averittcenterforthearts.org, or by calling 912-212-2787.