Artists find their voice on community issues

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) – A Pitt County non-profit created an unconventional town hall in Greenville to answer the question: What happens if there is a community space for folks who don’t feel comfortable in a formal, institutional space?

Artists old and new expressed the most pressing issues in their neighborhoods through song, dance, and canvas.

“This is our experience as women, as black people,” said Jnyah Corbett, the evening’s youngest performer. “It’s very comforting and it makes me feel patriotic in myself.”

Through painting, photography, poetry, song, and dance… folks were invited to come as they are and discuss the things that matter most to them in a comfortable setting.

For organizer Jermain Mcnair, the concept was simple. Create a space where people feel welcome and soon enough, they will share what is on their mind.

“We’ll get the leaders here. We’ll get the local decisions makers here. We’ll collect the data and information and make sure that you are heard,” said Mcnair.

NC CIVIL is the non-profit behind the idea of Wednesday’s art expo. Mcnair serves as the organization’s director.

At the historic Roxy Theatre in West Greenville, there was a common ground to be found.

“Even though we are different people, even though we might not have been in the same neighborhood, we still can relate to things that we see and hear,” said Corbett.

Lala Robinson performed for the first time at the expo.

“For me,” Robinson said, “to be able to sing this song, to express my voice, and others’ voices… it just meant so much to come here and sing that piece for the crowd.”

It was the first of what is hoped to be many community outreach events for people to feel more comfortable showing up and speaking out.

“A part of a growing community is developing more tools for everyone to be heard. Not that everyone has to reach up to some level in order to be heard, but we can meet you where you are and continue to all be connected as partners in this process,” said Mcnair.

The theme of the expo was “We do see color.” Mcnair says the reason behind that has come from a restructuring of how the community should identify equity.

When discussing issues of racial inequity, he explains, you have to see color to understand the weight of these issues.

Beyond the art gallery, performance pieces, and panel discussion, NC CIVIL took surveys of the attendees to learn more about the immediate issues they see firsthand in their neighborhoods.

The organization plans to bring these issues to local leaders on the community’s behalf.

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