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By Will Wright
Kentucky poet and UK associate professor Frank X. Walker has been nominated for the poetry award in the 45th annual NAACP Image Awards.
Walker was nominated after the release of his book, “Turn Me Loose: The Unghosting of Medgar Evers,” a collection of poems meant to educate people on the life of Evers, a civil rights activist assassinated in 1963.
Walker said “Turn Me Loose” reintroduces Evers into the civil rights movement conversation after being lost as a consequence of historical summarization.
“My interest for Medgar Evers and his story was discovering that many young people had no idea who he was, and I thought that was a travesty that such a significant civil rights icon was getting left out of the collective knowledge of civil rights,” Walker said. “Unless you’re a history enthusiast, you tend to settle for generic summaries of historical events.”
In the case of the civil rights movement, Walker said this summary includes Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, but leaves out many other influential civil rights leaders including Evers.
“As unfortunate as that is, those summaries pass for history in a lot of classrooms and textbooks,” Walker said. “I’m a teacher first, so education is primary to all of my historical poetry.”
“Turn Me Loose” was used as a textbook in Walker’s English 107 class at UK last semester, and now stands as one of five finalists for an award celebrating “the outstanding achievements and performances of people of color in the arts,” as well as those who promote social justice through the arts, according to the NAACP Image Awards website.
“Of all the awards that are out there for poetry, this is one of the ones that is really significant because the NAACP stands for social justice,” Walker said. “I think (making the finals) says (“Turn Me Loose”) is one of the books that represents what the NAACP stands for.”