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Wed, 12.29.1943

Roy McBride, Poet born

Roy McBride

*Roy McBride was born on this date in 1943. He was a Black teacher, writer, community activist, and poet/spoken word artist.

Roy Chester McBride was from Magnolia, Arkansas, and was the firstborn of Roger and Lacinea McBride; McBride fell in love with books and reciting words as a child. The Arkansas native moved to the Twin Cities for a job and attended Macalester College, where he got involved in poetry readings. For 30 years, he was a Powderhorn Park artist and community leader of the spoken word in South Minneapolis. Far from the lofty poet, he used his craft to bring people together, according to those who knew him. "He touched so many people," said friend Jeannie Piekos of Minneapolis. "It's not just poets or people from Powderhorn; he worked with people that were academics or taxi drivers who liked poetry."

McBride taught in Minneapolis and St. Paul schools, co-founded Poetry for the People, and in 1997, the Powderhorn Writers Festival, and worked for In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre. Indicative of his egalitarian views, McBride ensured that everyone who entered the festival's writing contest won a prize, Piekos said. The event also boosted the image of a neighborhood known more for its crime rates. "He was the community's best-kept secret," said Janis Lane-Ewart, executive director of KFAI Radio, where McBride was a frequent contributor. "He was a cult figure within the poetry community." In 2011, filmmaker Mike Hazard of St. Paul released a 30-minute documentary on McBride called "A Poet's Poet." It was shown at the Twin Cities Black Film Festival. "He was among our best [writers]," Hazard said. "He's widely regarded as the old master of spoken word in the community."

Amy Ballestad taught with McBride in Minneapolis and St. Paul schools, where she said he could mesmerize unruly sixth graders with poems. "Roy saw the beauty in every story," she said. "Kids, especially, really resonated with that." "He saw all of us as artists," "He loved people, and he had a great hope in art and poetry healing and bringing people together," said his wife, Lucinda Anderson.

In 2002, the family moved to Osceola, Wis., where McBride found a passion for farming, tending to fruit trees or garlic plants. He also made paper mâché bowls and sold them at art fairs. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2009. Roy McBride died July 29, 2011, at age 67. Survivors include his wife, 14-year-old daughter Laci McBride of Osceola, and sisters Carolyn Sanders and Evelyn Evans of Muskegon, Mich.

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