The JMU Furious Flower Poetry Center and Bluescape

Jun 15, 2021

The JMU Furious Flower Poetry Center is an academic center that originated at the acclaimed 1994 Furious Flower Poetry Conference, the first major conference on African American poetry since the 1970s. For 27 years, The Center has archived an amazing collection of contemporary Black literature, including work from many famous 21st century Black poets. The Center is committed to ensuring the visibility, inclusion, and critical consideration of Black poets. JMU students and faculty combed through the archives to produce an innovative digital prototype which was presented at a special panel at the 25th Anniversary of Furious Flower at the Smithsonian’s Museum for African American History and Culture in 2019. Furious Flower serves James Madison University, the local Harrisonburg community, and scholars everywhere with education, research, and publishing. After a second successful conference in 2004, Furious Flower was chartered as an academic center at JMU and acquired a dedicated facility and staff.

From June 21 – 25, 2021, The Center is hosting a week of education, inspiration, and conversation with stellar faculty and legacy poet Haki Madhubuti for college and high school educators. Dr. Haki Madhubuti, born Don Luther Lee in Little Rock, Arkansas, is a poet essayist, editor, and publisher. He was one of the early prominent voices in the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and the founder of Third World Press. The biennial seminar celebrates living Black writers whose careers have been marked by creative distinction and critical acclaim. The week-long conference consists of lectures, panels, discussions, and workshops based on the featured poet’s work. The 2021 legacy seminar will have the distinction of being the first virtual seminar. Bluescape is the technology sponsor for the event.

Bluescape technology will be used as a hybrid collaboration tool for lectures and online break out groups over the five-day conference. Multiple workspaces will be developed by the presenters, where information can be uploaded, and brainstorming and ideation can occur between speakers and the audience. All workspaces will be linked to one main workspace accessible by all. One Zoom call will be set up each day for video connection and Bluescape technology will be used to create a live event virtually where presenters and meeting participants will have easy access to presentation materials, displayed on one large screen, and be able to readily review everything that happens during the conference without the need to search data. More than 60 people will virtually attend the event and experience the value Bluescape offers.

Having all relevant content in place prior to a meeting allows participants to focus on the content and discuss important issues immediately. Meeting delay, due to connection issues, is in the past. There is no need to search and fumble through PowerPoint slide decks, Excel spreadsheets, and Word documents. All meeting participants see all information in front of them at the same time.

Operated on cloud-based software, Bluescape can be accessed on multiple devices, including large-scale, high-definition, multi-touch screens: iPads, laptops, and mobile devices. There is no limit to the total amount of information an organization can have in Bluescape. The format of the information is visually organized (by the person who uploads the information) so the content is clear, and ideas easily understood. No other platform combines this second visual self-organization with other features like video conferencing, an API for easy integrations, and the broad array of content types supported by Bluescape.

The single most important feature that differentiates Bluescape from other collaboration tools is its almost limitless whiteboard to collect, display, and present ideas and activities all in one setting. A record can be kept of everything that has happened on a project—meetings, comments, decisions made, iterations and more—all in one place for easy reference.

The Furious Flower Poetry Center event is focused on instruction – bringing people together in new and different ways. Future events may include a focus on food and poetry. Bluescape will be used to link a poet, who identifies a menu, with a local chef who prepares the menu as people watch, and then participants can cook the food at home. There is no limit to how creative people can be using Bluescape to collaborate. By seeing projects laid out visually, brainstorming sessions grow more productive. Participants are more involved. Presentations are more impactful. Decision-making is more informed. Participants can capture every idea, comment, and change. It is easy to track who is doing what, all in one place. By using Bluescape for the Furious Flower Poetry Center event, this experience can be shared far beyond those on campus and the use of Bluescape will help encourage others to be creative in the way they collaborate. Use of Bluescape by JMU is showing how the classroom of the future is achieved today.

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