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Arts & Culture

San Antonio Effort Brings Poet Laureate's Verse To Downtown Streets

San Antonio poet laureate Andrea "Vocab" Sanderson paints the words of her poem on downtown streets.
Ryan Vestil
San Antonio poet laureate Andrea "Vocab" Sanderson paints the words of her poem on downtown streets.

Three streets surrounding downtown San Antonio's Travis Park have changed overnight. Big, block yellow letters forming two sentences — a poem — have been painted on those streets.

Andrea "Vocab" Sanderson is San Antonio's current poet laureate and wrote the poem now adorning the downtown area.

Volunteers paint the words of a poem from San Antonio's poet laureate Andrea "Vocab" Sanderson on downtown city streets.
Credit City of San Antonio
Volunteers paint the words of a poem from San Antonio's poet laureate Andrea "Vocab" Sanderson on downtown city streets.

It reads, "Jubilant and exuberant is the melanin of our skin. From despair we have arisen all over the world."

Melanin is what gives skin its color, but Sanderson said it's also used to oppress people.

"Because people judge people often by the color of their skin rather than the content of their character," she added.

Sanderson's sentiment in this context is a celebration.

"This poem is seeking to let people know they can have joy. They can rise up. They've already risen. We're already free,” she said.

“There's different ways you can speak to the movement. And I choose to speak words of life."

She thinks what's going on nationally is an extension of that which came before.

"It started with the younger generation, you know, responding to the echoes of what happened in the 1960s and ’70s. And so the revolution continues, and it just evolves and it looks a little different," Sanderson said.

The idea sprang from the city's Art Everywhere program, from a suggestion by Centro San Antonio's Andi Rodriguez.

"Instead of painting Black Lives Matter, what if we painted one of your poems on the ground?" Sanderson recalled the conversation with Rodriguez.

The project was funded by Centro.

Sanderson and 20 volunteers painted the poetry Tuesday night into the wee hours of Wednesday morning, and she thinks there's a message for everyone in those words.

"There's plenty of reasons to feel hopeless during this season. But we don't have to,” she said. “And, you know, you can leave messages of love on your own streets."

There's also an ephemeral aspect to this mural. Weather and traffic may cause the paint to fade away by January, but the message — hopefully — will remain.   

Jack Morgan can be reached at Jack@TPR.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii.

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