Birmingham poet and community activist Brian Hawkins has died at 42



A poet and community activist from the Birmingham area has died.

Brian Duane Hawkins was found dead at his home Wednesday morning in Warrior, Alabama. Authorities say the cause of death has not been determined. Hawkins was 42 years old.

Known in the community as the “Voice Porter,” Hawkins was a famous poet, writer and community activist. Two of Hawkins’ poems, “Sun Ra’s Ethos” and “A Poem of Indigo,” were included in the July / August edition of the Poetry Foundation’s Poetry magazine, one of three editions edited by the magazine’s guest editor, Birmingham. originally from Alabama and recently named Ashley Jones Poet Laureate.

Hawkins had recently completed his first book of poetry, “The Devil Came to Alabama”.

Hawkins was also the host and founder of ‘Bards & Brews’, the open mic poetry and craft beer event hosted by the Birmingham Public Library.

A renowned community activist dedicated to empowering Birmingham’s Ensley neighborhood, Hawkins was director of The Color Project, an initiative that combined public art, gardens, light and music to address health, safety and crime issues.

“We’re talking about an area of ​​the city where a large number of residents, just because they live there, can show signs of PTSD just because of the living conditions – you give them public art, parks. handheld, lights and sounds, it improves their mental well-being, ”Hawkins told AL.com in 2014.

Hawkins also worked closely with Branding Ensley, a community revitalization project led by Bettina Byrd-Giles, 2016 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation health culture leader, CEO of Bethesda Life Center and co-founder of Ensley Alive. , a group dedicated to Ensley’s rebirth.

In 2019, the group launched ‘SunRise’, a music project dedicated to honoring legendary Birmingham-born and conductor Sun Ra. Hawkins hoped the project would turn into an annual festival honoring the legacy of the famous jazz musician. The group had planned to host the 2021 festival during the World Games in order to showcase the city’s rich musical history during the 10 days of competition.

“Sun Ra didn’t have much to do with Ensley other than a few musicians,” Hawkins told AL.com in 2019. “But being from Birmingham and having such international influence out of the world, we’re gonna do something for him.

Friends and family on Wednesday morning mourned Hawkins’ passing on Facebook, sharing their condolences and memories of organizing the community through poetry and the power of the word.

“It’s unreal to learn of the passing of Brian Voice Porter Hawkins, a light shining in our city, a voice like no other,” Ashley Jones wrote in a Facebook post. “I am absolutely in shock and send love to his children and loved ones. Wow. It’s a relentless year. Peace to you in the next world, my friend.

Roy Williams, director of public relations at the Birmingham Public Library, also mourned the death of the famous poet. In September, Hawkins was scheduled to host the Bards & Brews poetry slam, the first in-person edition of the BPL poetry event since the library suspended on-site gatherings for the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Williams said the library will change the format of the poetry slam into a tribute to Hawkins’ life and legacy.

(This message will be updated).


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