Healing Words

Poetry for the Purpose of Community Engagement

The strong sense of resilience that permeates Natasha "T" Miller's poems was shaped by dealing with great loss. Missed opportunities, misconceptions, queerness, ex-lovers and lost identities all make for fun fodder on stage during Miller's readings. Yet, emotionally, she's still wrestling with her life's greatest grief, the loss of her brother, Marcus, four year ago. At Miller's recent "The Science of Grief" talk at the Detroit Institute of Arts, she invited people from all over metro Detroit to perform their stories of pain in order to heal.
"I feel so much all of the time, and I draw from this constant want for others to be okay," she said. "I'm a self-taught poet. My training came from experiences; so many areas of life and trauma and politics."
Miller wears many hats besides poet. She is the community engagement manager for Science Gallery Lab Detroit, a project that engages young people through science, technology and art. She has also published two books, "Dreams of a Beginner" and "Coming Out of Nowhere," a social networking memoir about homosexuality, religion and cyber bullying.
When she's not performing at clubs or big venues in front of thousands, Miller's poetry pops up in films and commercials. In 2010, she famously gave an MVP-worthy poetry slam in Sprite's Slam Dunk commercial.
"Through performance and the internet, I am able to reach people I wouldn't reach or be able to connect to without poetry," said Miller, who is a three-time Women of the World Poetry Slam finalist. "People love entertainment and sometimes it's easier to paint a picture through poetry than it is to try to engage people simply through conversation."
Writers Toni Morrison and Audre Lorde are a few inspirational influences.
"I'm still growing up," she said. "I find so much inspiration in the works of my friends who are in the process of becoming legends right now."
When it comes to her own work, Miller says she only hopes her words can help people find a place of peace.
"I want to live a life as an artist and as a queer black woman finding happiness, peace, and creating spaces where others like me can find theirs," she said. "My goal is to create meaningful projects and to hopefully become the best version of myself before I leave this place."

Tools of Engagement
Detroit Institute of Arts

Science Gallery Lab Detroit

Poetry Slam

This article originally appeared in Pride Source Magazine. Between The Lines interviewed seven young LGBTQ people and allies who have grabbed ahold of their "Tools of Engagement," and with their confidence have become role models and leaders building positive networks and influencing others.