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Poet Hanesworth takes lessons from 'Before and After Again'

Jillian Hanesworth, a Black woman with long braided hair with beads is wearing glasses for a self-portrait. She has large ear piercings, a nose piercing, and a Black shirt. The photo is in black and white.
Jillian Hanesworh

Substantial work went into putting together "Before and After Again." Dedicated to the victims of May 14, 2022, the exhibition at the Buffalo AKG Art Museum features the work of artists Julia Bottoms, Tiffany Gaines and Jillian Hanesworth, Buffalo's first Poet Laureate.

The process of creating 12 new poems for the exhibition, Hanesworth said, has changed how she views her work and her community.

A resident of Buffalo's Black East Side, she "already knew of our resilience." Systemic racism has worked to make residents feel "like we are in a constant state of survival." Now, she wants to remind the "community that we are here for so much greater than that."

To prepare for the exhibition, Hanesworth, Bottoms and Gaines conducted interviews with family members of those who died in the attack on the Jefferson Avenue Tops. Conversations with two family members, Garnell Whitfield and Mark Talley, were "radicalizing in a way," Hanesworth said. Witnessing how they worked through the pain of losing their mothers (Ruth Whitfield and Geraldine Talley) to become advocates for change was an inspiration.

"We owe them everything," she said. "They don't owe us anything. They'vie given us something they don't have to and that most people wouldn't be able to."

Running through September 30, "Before and After Again" features the paintings of Julia Bottoms and the prose of Tiffany Gaines. Situated inside the gallery space are three vanities with mirrors which offer visitors a spot to sit and reflect. There, they will also find seed paper.

"Three of my poems are printed on seed paper. People can write or add to the poem or they can plant it and wildflowers will grow," Hanesworth explained.

"The idea of our words being seeds that can really birth something new for us is very symbolic, and really on point for what we need in our community."

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Jay joined Buffalo Toronto Public Media in 2008 and has been local host for NPR's "Morning Edition" ever since. In June, 2022, he was named one of the co-hosts of WBFO's "Buffalo, What's Next."

A graduate of St. Mary's of the Lake School, St. Francis High School and Buffalo State College, Jay has worked most of his professional career in Buffalo. Outside of public media, he continues in longstanding roles as the public address announcer for the Buffalo Sabres of the National Hockey League and as play-by-play voice of Canisius College basketball.