Local Poet Hosts 14-Hour Community Grief Outlet
The violent death of a family member is the stuff of nightmares, but for poet Natasha Miller it was a reality.
“On Dec. 28, 2013, my brother was gunned down in Detroit, and it was just a really hard, difficult time for me,” Miller said. “He was murdered on the 28th, and then New Year came up on Jan. 1, and Jan. 3 was my birthday. I planned my brother’s funeral and he was cremated on my birthday. His birthday is Jan. 14, so it was 11 days after that. I just had a really hard time dealing with that. He was my friend, we were only a year apart.”
And although Miller will likely never be fully past the traumatic event, she has been proactive in creating ways to deal with her grief, understand it and provide outlets for others to do the same.
“I just thought that there wasn’t enough space for people — specifically people of color — to be open about the grief that they were experiencing,” Miller said. “I think it was just one of those subjects that people shy away from it, but we feel it every day. That is a universal language.”
Now, in partnership with the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Science Gallery Lab Detroit, Miller will host a community performance focusing on the expression of grief on March 27 at 7 p.m. It will also be held at the museum.
“The event was supposed to be 24 hours at the DIA, but we were really trying to figure out if we could man an event for 24 hours,” Miller said. “And then, it came down to 14 hours.”
However, the 14-hour mark was not random. Miller said that the number 14 was perfect for two reasons: her brother’s birthday is Jan. 14, and the number has been an important recurring mark in her life since his death.
“It’s a number I’ve been seeing in my life, in my journey, since the day that he was killed,” she said. “So, I guess it’s a symbol.”
The grief event focuses on all kinds of sadness, but stems from triggers that are specific to Miller’s life, like “queer grief,” “suicide grief,” “trans grief,” and “sibling grief.”
“I’m talking about the things that are close to me. I’m from Detroit, I’m queer, I’m dealing with sibling grief,” she said. “I just wanted to make sure that all of those things are represented and some of the issues that have been kind of threatening and in the media over the last few years.”
Miller’s grief event will be structured so that each moment of the 14-hour event will keep up its momentum. First, it will begin with a prayer from a variety of clergy-members from “as many different religions as we can find.”
“Once the event opens, I’ll talk about my story, and the reason that I brought everyone here. Once I go, then we’ll bring up the topics of grief — they’ll have their own section — and anyone who signed up to participate, they come and speak in 15-minute increments about the grief that they’ve experienced. It could be anyone at all,” Miller said. “In the second half of the show around 1 o’clock, and then every hour on the hour we’ll have a performer. We’ll have a trans woman who plays the harp, we’ll have hip-hop artists, poets and they’ll all perform in those last seven hours.”
Finally, the event will conclude with a similar prayer that kicked things off. The event will also include resources onsite like grief counselors, therapists and clergy to aid anyone who needs it mid-presentation.
The Science of Grief will begin on March 27 at 7 p.m. at the Detroit Institute of Arts. The event will last until 9 a.m. on March 28. Visitors are welcome to come at any time during the event. For speaking inquiries, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. The DIA is located at 5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit. 313-833-7900.