Monday, July 25, 2011

Remembering Blair from Inside/Out Literary #michlit

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InsideOut Literary Arts | 5143 Cass Ave., Room 225 | WSU - State Hall | Detroit | MI | 48202

InsideOut Literary Arts Project Remembers David Blair

Dear Friends:
Blair at InsideOut's Get Versed Showcase

Blair at InsideOut's Get Versed Showcase. Photo credit: Nichole Christian


Like many in the poetry community in Detroit - and around the country - we at InsideOut are stunned and saddened by the sudden death of our dear friend and colleague, Blair. As we grieve his loss, we count ourselves especially lucky to have been able to share him with the young people we serve. He brought his magnetism as a mentor to teens in after school settings and as writer-in-residence for high school, middle school and elementary children in InsideOut classrooms in Detroit schools.


In May, he stood on stage at the Detroit Institute of Arts as our host of a citywide youth talent show and proclaimed his love for Detroit and its youngest scribes. "I consider it a gift to be able to work with the students of our city and to help pull out of them some of the beauty that may otherwise have gone un-mined. We all owe it to the youth of Detroit to carry that message on."


Wherever he went, with his guitar slung over his shoulder, Blair was a beacon of inspiration, a troubadour for honesty and personal integrity, for kindness, for speaking truth to power and celebrating the lives and voices of the dispossessed. It has been Detroit's good fortune that he chose us as his adopted hometown, and he knit people together in ways even he probably did not understand. With few resources other than his gigantic talent, his great big heart and his ability to reach others, Blair created community and helped us to believe in ourselves.


"Blair's energy on the stage was magnetic and he brought this same force into the classroom,'' says our Associate Director Alise Alousi, who hired Blair officially as an InsideOut Writer-In-Residence. "Students were drawn to him. I will never forget his smile lighting up the room at the end of the year celebration at Noble Elementary School. He was full of joy as he complimented students on the work that they'd done. One young boy literally could not take his eyes off Blair. He was walking backwards and grinning ear to ear after Blair told him how much he liked his hair. The expression on that young boy's face was matched equally in brightness and love by the one on Blair's face. I will never forget it or him or his graciousness."


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Blair with Slam Team member Joseph Verge at WDET studio interview.

It was my personal good fortune to work closely with Blair, commissioning him to create a song cycle as part of InsideOut's 2010-2011 "Big Read" project bringing the work of Emily Dickinson, who is near and dear to my heart, to Detroit.   Blair had not previously read much Dickinson, but his eagerness and curiosity and enthusiasm helped me see her again, and anew, through his eyes. We had a lot of fine conversations about her life and work, and I especially loved how he identified with her work, finding in it the voice of "an authentic self."


Like Emily, Blair saw through phoniness and facades.   From his resounding gospel rendition of " Tie the strings to my Life, my Lord " to the delicacy of " I haven't told my garden yet " - Blair's songs inhabited Dickinson for us all.


"What Blair did with those Dickinson poems was truly an act of one immortal poet meeting up with another," said Peter Markus, one of Blair's fellow IO Writer-In-Residence colleagues. Pete's tribute is but one of the thousands pouring out to Blair on Facebook over the last 24 hours.


The links below to some of his songs and the work with children will help to show what a wonderful role he played for InsideOut and what incomparable void he leaves. "I work with Inside Out because art is important to me and the youth of Detroit are important to me.''


We thank Blair for being such a guiding light. We love him and we will miss him always.


Peace & Gratitude,

Terry Blackhawk


Links to some of Blair's recent performances.


See Blair perform with Bennett Elementary 5th graders - July 2010


See Blair with Bennett Elementary 3rd graders - July 2010


Blair performing, " Tie the Strings to my Life ."  This is part of the overall "Lemonade: Detroit" project produced by Erik Proulx which will be screened Saturday at 5pm the Detroit Makers' Faire.


Jessica Thomas dances to " I have not told my garden yet ," (at 10 minutes in) followed by interview with Blair.


Sound Cloud bite of " I have not told my garden yet ."  Link to Emily Dickinson's poem.

Blair at WSU performing Emily Dickinson poem to song "I have not told my garden yet." 


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