Alumnus unites students, community through poetry
Georgia College alumnus Paul Grigsby steps up to the mic.
He takes a deep breath then proceeds to engage his audience with visuals of current issues and social situations:
This is Melanin in the Sun,
A letter in the Margin
Cell blocks that hold
The innocent. Choose
Bread over bombs
This is the inner-city
Going off. Beat Boxes
And public housing,
Gentrification in turning tables.
“Injustice anywhere is a
threat to justice everywhere.”
We are King’s Dream remixed in skin
“My poetry is personal and makes human connections,” said Grigsby, ’08, ’10. “I also like to write about people in urban spaces since I grew up in the city of Atlanta.”
Grigsby and student artists, poets and musicians collaborate in cultural performances throughout the academic year.
As executive director of nonprofit organization Art as an Agent for Change Inc. (A.A.C.), Grigsby connects his love for the arts with his alma mater and local community.
“I always loved poetry, but how do you use it to make an impact and reshape the world?” asked Grigsby. “Art as an Agent for Change provides a venue for poems, plays, music, films and arts and crafts to come to life and socially uplift our communities.”
The poet and educator wanted to cultivate his childhood knack for writing poetry, so he decided to attend Georgia College.
Today, he works as a language arts instructor at Baldwin High School in Milledgeville teaching 10th- through 12th-grade students English.
“I knew Georgia College had one of the best writing programs and the best faculty mentors,” Grigsby said. “I needed to learn how to become a better writer and editor while relating to my audience. The program’s faculty members spent a lot of time with students to make us aware of great writers like Flannery O’Connor and Saul Williams. They wanted us to become great writers too.”
The English major worked with professors like Dr. Allen Gee, associate professor of English and creative writing, and Dr. Beauty Bragg, associate professor of English, to develop real, relatable stories.
During his undergraduate studies, Grigsby also founded student organization A.A.C. The organization supports artistic collaboration, community engagement, arts activism and education improvement through the arts.
Grigsby’s dedication to A.A.C. elevated the program from student organization status to a nationally recognized, award-winning organization, winning Georgia College’s 2009 Bobcat Award for “Best New Program” and 2011 Flagg Social Justice Award.
“A.A.C. is now a 501(c)3 tax-exempted organization,” said Grigsby. “As a nonprofit, charitable group, we can enter contracts and earn grants. A.A.C. proves that Georgia College students and the community have a shared passion for the arts.”
After earning his undergraduate degree, Grigsby wanted to become a creative writing educator. He advanced his degree through Georgia College’s Master of Arts in Teaching program.
“Because Georgia College helped me fine tune my writing skills, I’m better equipped to help my students understand the written word,” Grigsby said.
His passion for poetry has created a strong interest among his high school students.
This year A.A.C. implemented a new program called A.A.C. Youth Poetry Collectives. The program creates performance poetry workshops for middle and high school students to enhance creative writing, critical thinking and public speaking skills.
Thus far, participating schools include Baldwin High School, Georgia College Early College and Greene County High School.
The program also features A.A.C.’s Middle Georgia Youth Poetry Slam where students compete in a slam poetry contest to showcase their writing and public speaking talents.
“My students are learning how to write great poems,” said Grigsby. “Whether funny, tragic or informational, a great poem should include part of you, your life experiences and draw inspiration from your passion. Poetry gives me a deeper sense of self, and Georgia College helped me develop my passion.”
Visit aacshutdown.org to learn more about A.A.C.