“Poetry Paints: Ekphrastic Writing,” Brown’s collaboration with Flint’s Mott-Warsh Collection (Stephanie James, Director, Curator, & Collection Educator) and the students of Freeman Elementary, under the direction of Principal Anna Johnson, with technical support from Librarian Rebecca Robertson made its debut at 1:30 p.m. EST via Zoom, May 18th. 

Ekphrastic writing is commentary on a work or works of visual art. The fifth and sixth grade students, guided by Brown, created collaborative poems based on pieces in the private collection of fine art created by artists of the African diaspora and those who reflect on such. One poem drew special inspiration from Patron Saint of Middle Passengers by Mark Steven Greenfield. James and the Collection’s Gallery Assistant Janice McCoy were instrumental in this phase of P3, as were community partners Zeta Foundation-Flint, in alliance with chapter Zeta Beta Zeta of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. The Zetas presented the young creatives, now known as The Freeman Poets, with gifts, including writing implements, books from Brown’s Poet Laureate Library, Mott-Warsh-related materials, and a certificate of completion, reflecting their literary achievement. 

An electronic summary of “Poetry Paints: Ekphrastic Writing,” which will include lessons, worksheets, an image of the artwork created by Greenfield from which the students worked, and the collaborative poems created during this project, is currently being compiled by Brown. She hopes to share it with other educators at the Michigan Council of Teachers of English (MCTE) when she speaks at its 100th Anniversary luncheon as its keynote on October 14, 2022. A new volume of Brown’s poetry is slated for publication by Wayne State University Press in 2023. 


Featured photo: Credits: Mark Steven Greenfield,

2000,Mixed Media. © Courtesy of Mark Steven Greenfield

Mark Steven Greenfield (b. 1951) Mixed media on paper, 91.44 x 60.02 cm (36 x 23.63 in.) Mott-Warsh Collection, Flint, Michigan Courtesy of Mark Steven Greenfield 

Freeman Poets Respond to artwork by Mark Steven “PATRON SAINT OF MIDDLE PASSENGERS” 
Title: Dear “Patron Saint of Middle Passengers”: A Collaborative Poem 

She was a pretty melanin girl from a village. 
Her name is Glory. 
She moves like a human. 
She moves like a princess. 
She smells like a cloud. 
Her name is Aurora. 
She smells like a powerful flower. 
When she speaks, she has kind things to say, 
she says, “Hi Kiddo.” 
She smells like royalty, a halo with a golden touch
Crown of light and glory 
God of Glory. 

Freeman Elementary poets invoke the African diaspora in virtual poetry event

Freeman Elementary held a virtual poetry performance titled Poetry Paints: Ekphrastic Writing led by a group of 5th and 6th graders called The Freeman Poets on Wednesday, May 18.

Young Freeman Poets present collaborative poetry piece as Semaj Brown fellowship comes to close

Two forms of arts were merged-visual arts and literary arts-in order for fifth and sixth grade students from Freeman Elementary to create beautiful collaborative pieces, which they recently shared with the community. “Pairing the study of visual arts with poetry writing through Poetry Paints was an inspirational idea conceived by Flint’s Poet Laureate Semaj Brown,” said Anna Johnson, principal of Freeman.