42 A Furious Flower Guide for Community Workshops

Authors: Shameka Cunningham, McKinley E. Melton, Adrienne Danyelle Oliver, Carmin Wong

Target Group: Facilitators of community writing workshops and seminars


“The fight for inclusion of black authors in college literature courses and anthologies is a vital part of the fight for social justice on all levels in America, and .the argument over literary theory–often changed, sometimes justly, with obscurantism and irrelevance–is an argument about how to talk about literature and culture.”

– Dr. Joanne V. Gabbin, founder, Furious Flower Poetry Center

From “Introduction,” (Furious Flowering 1999, p. 12)

The Furious Flower Poetry Center aims to support the teaching of Black poetry in formal educational spaces, from elementary through higher education. Yet, the Center also embraces and furthers the idea that Black poetry can and should be introduced and made accessible to students of all learning environments. We are driven by a common goal to share Black poetry and methods of teaching poetry in informal spaces of knowledge production, by utilizing the restorative and rehabilitative nature inherent in the practice of poetry writing and such genres of Black expression.

Decolonizing the Classroom Space

Furious Flower operationally defines the process of decolonizing the classroom space as shifting from a vertical “student-teacher” positionality to a “communal learning” dynamic that embodies a more horizontal exchange. In this regard, it becomes important for facilitators to reflect upon their social location and histories before embracing and uplifting those of participants in the workshop. The act of decolonization is an act of going against the settler colonial mindset that enters into new spaces to “correct” rather than integrate into a culture.

Mission Statement

The mission of this handbook is to provide a supplementary source for poetry facilitators that choose to lead the writing workshops and seminars offered in this Furious Flower Black Syllabus Project, as well as to provide the support necessary to create and reimagine the learning space as a creative, equitable, and liberatory space for the collective.

Responsibilities of the Workshop Facilitator

As you take on the role of workshop facilitator, below are some useful questions you might ask yourself in shaping your approach to the role:

Shaping your approach to the classroom space

  • How do you typically begin your workshop? What are the tone-setting practices that create positive experiences?
  • How do you encourage students’ participation and engagement?
  • How can you arrange the learning space to nurture individual experiences and facilitate inclusive dialogue?
  • How can you be strategic in generating a spirit of creativity in the classroom?
  • How are you establishing and making known workshop etiquette?
  • In what ways can you reimagine a learning environment where everyone feels empowered and supported to contribute to the function of the classroom?

Tackling challenging topics

  • How do you help students to feel heard and acknowledged as contributors to the discussion?
  • How do you create a space of safety, while also recognizing that not all subject matter will be in participants’ comfort zone?
  • How do you work through disagreement and potentially contentious topics? How do you make room for respectful debate?
  • If tension arises, then how do you maintain a safe, healthy, and productive creative and educational environment?

 Giving Feedback

  • How do you respond to students’ ideas and creative work? How do you encourage students to practice considerate responses and critical thinking skills?
  • How are you posing questions that generate curiosity, mindfulness, and allow for the recognition of differences in experiences?
  • How do you encourage and challenge students to strengthen their knowledge base within their approach to responses and producing written work?

Furious Flower Poetry Center Resources


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The Furious Flower Syllabus Project: Opening the World of Black Poetry Copyright © 2024 by Anastacia-Reneé; allia abdullah-matta; Ariana Benson; Mary Beth Cancienne; Teri Ellen Cross Davis; Shameka Cunningham; Hayes Davis; Tyree Daye; Angel C. Dye; Brian Hannon; T.J. Hendrix; DaMaris B. Hill; Meta DuEwa Jones; Shauna M. Morgan; Adrienne Danyelle Oliver; Leona Sevick; James Smethurst; Dana A. Williams; L. Lamar Wilson; Carmin Wong; Dave Wooley; and Joanne V. Gabbin (preface) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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