Speaker: Al Black

Al Black is a poet and activist whose passion and commitment to social action is contagious.

He has coordinated many services affectionately referred to as Poetry Church, bringing a message that the Divine is within all of us. He published poetry collections, including: I Only Left for Tea (2014) and Man with Two Shadows (2018), both with Muddy Ford Press. He co-edited Hand in Hand, Poets Respond to Race (2017) and has been published in several anthologies, journals, periodicals, and blogs. He hosts various arts events, co-founded the Poets Respond to Race Initiative, and was Jasper Project’s 2017 Literary Artist of the Year.

He was active in the anti-war movement and civil rights movement of the late 60’s and early 70’s. In Indiana, he serves as the vice president of the NAACP Chapter and a national convention delegate. In the mid 90’s when the KKK announced they would do a public recruitment drive on the courthouse steps of his home town, he founded an organization that put together a unity march and concert with thousands of participants that was held the weekend before the KKK’s recruitment drive. The purpose was to show that our city was for unity and not hate and race mongering.

He was a diversity trainer at Purdue University and served on various community boards – including being the only non-Christian on the board of Lafayette Urban Ministries and the only non-Jew to serve as chairman of the International Holocaust Conference that was held annually at Purdue University.

Having been in Columbia for over twenty years, he supports other artistic venues and artists. He is proud to be a trophy husband to his wife Carol, a professor at Newberry College. As a member of the Baháʼí faith, he is a strong advocate for using our words to support causes important to us, adding that “we all have talents and there is no such thing as doing nothing – not speaking up on issues or participating in your community is in itself a statement and an irretrievable squandering of your gifts and potential.”