Kansas City poet, B. Michael Long shares how his curious mind works to shift the narrative forward.
If one is seeking wisdom, there is a conscious choice being made to grow. In cases of writers, their words become more particular, intentionally slated to cause a ripple effect of change. The resources and influences for the words can be found through experiences, whether recent or seasoned. Using as much as possible from the past to learn the best way to lay out the future. Through his poetry and interview, B. Michael Long defines his personal journey and the growth that found him along the way.
Although influences cam early on, Long’s relationship with words took a pivotal turn while in college at The University of Main-Orono. As a student-Athlete pursuing a degree in Communications, he began to experience a personal spiritual awakening. This time of introspection was the start to raising his consciousness, thus finding new appreciation for the written word. “I was an avid reader. Started with getting into comics like Spiderman, Silver Surfer and Black Panther”, Long stated.
He went on to explain how the comic literature had helped him understand his own human gifts, something we shared similar feelings on. He solidified the notion by saying, “Sci-Fi and reality have a very fine line at times”. It was an acknowledgement, not so much of the belief in the fantastical worlds but the sliver of truth that danced along that fine line. Birthing a new understanding of our own reality in relation to the stories.
As our conversation continued, we discussed one of Long’s major influences on how words shaped his worldview, committing himself as a Hebrew Israelite. His religious beliefs cultivated new reasonings and purpose behind his words. “Words are building blocks to the world. I found that the Israelite language had a force behind it”, Long spoke passionately. It was an example of how accepting your spiritual alignment can be powerful motivation in the ways we choose to utilize our gifts in life. The intent behind the expression is propelled forward when the focus is defined and made clear for each of us, individually.
Many thoughts lingered around how this process could look for others who, like myself, are still building a relationship with their craft. Long brings it full circle as we dove into the importance of mentorship and truly getting to know oneself during the growing phases. He mentions that he personally has 4 mentors who are like-minded people that help him keep his values at the fore-front. In tandem with the outside support, he felt that self-discovery was equally imperative. He stated an idea that was very striking considering how closed off our worlds have become in this trying year. “I can walk with myself, not by myself. I enjoy my own company”, he says. Such a quick-hitting statement on self-love and self-awareness. We are never alone if we consider that we always remain with ourselves. Investing and nurturing ourselves as we do others.
Upon finding this understanding and after graduating from college in 1998, Long moved back to Kansas City. He passed down his wisdom to younger generations through mentoring and tutoring in the community at the local Boys and Girls Clubs and KC’s youth empowerment program, Upward Bound. He also co-founded and participated heavily in the spoken word organization, Urban Literation (ULit). During this time Long has produced several collections of work, including his fourth book of poetry titled, “Pensurrection”.
The book centers a theme around the revival of our Black culture and community, honestly bringing forth the awareness for the need to rebuild. Long speaks openly about many topics throughout, however one poem called to me specifically. That title is, “Sankofa”, which references the Ghanian word that asks that we look at our pasts to understand ourselves and to shape our futures. Line by line, Long takes the reader back in time, stopping at some of our most brutal historical points for Black people. Incarceration, dehumanization, and enslavement of our people penned with the focus on finding the clues to creating a better world. The last stanza speaks volumes.
“When restless spirits wander & Seek peace of mind So as I battle fear The Ancients are teaching me how to Realign with the divine As I travel time and space Like SANKOFA to find the missing pieces to the puzzle from my buried African past”
This poem and Long’s story shares a lot about looking back to move forward with intent. We are not simply existing here; we are striving to live a life of love and light out of the shadows of our past. The question begs, what pieces of ourselves do we leave behind for future generations to learn and grow from? It starts with awareness of where we are personally and truthfully looking at our community as it is now. Planting the seeds today, for the trees to cover us tomorrow. An unbreakable cycle.