With live music, chalk art and people lined up around the block for CJ’s Famous Angus, the usually desolate Buckeye neighborhood feels like a cultural hub on this early fall Saturday. Everyone is here to celebrate the installation of the striking red, blue, yellow and white Love Lunes Over Buckeye mural that combines lune poetry — three-line 13-syllable haiku-style poems — with Adinkra symbols depicting West African adages. Poet Damien Ware wrote many of the poems, which convey positive messages such as “Let me help you with your heavy burden and baggage.” Ware collaborated with local high school students on others, including one for the final mural, which visual art firm Little Jacket and painter Alan Giberson created (above). We caught up with the 37-year-old Army veteran to chat about those Adinkra symbols and why he thought Buckeye needed some love.
On Buckeye: I grew up on [East] 126th [Street] and Buckeye [Road]. Recently, me and my wife, we bought our home across the street from the apartment complex that I grew up in. As a neighborhood resident, I’m committed to helping change some of these issues that we’re dealing with. Some of the issues around youth culture, youth violence, some of the issues around drug and substance abuse.
On working with students: So often now young people are intimidated with reading and writing. We were able to produce some poetry that was really insightful and inspiring. Being able to recognize them not only as students, but [also] as neighbors made me very proud.
On poetry: My writing in the Army is what really made me stay grounded in a combat situation. My poetry, my writing letters home, stories — different things that I wrote about made me feel good. That’s one thing I brought back home with me. It’s really therapeutic. As someone who deals with post-traumatic stress disorder, it helps me deal with a lot. Poetry has really saved my life.
On Adinkra symbols: What these symbols embody is the spirit and soul of the people. So when someone passed, [those in West African culture] would wear these symbols as funerary art and a language. … As an African-American and someone who’s proud of my heritage and history, I think that tradition — the symbology in art and just meshing them together — was the whole idea behind this project.