Joanne Peopples is a health-care provider by profession, but a writer by nature.
The longtime, well-known Pleasantville resident, who recently celebrated her 65th birthday, again will host the Black History Poetry Celebration, to be held tonight at the Pleasantville Branch of the Atlantic County Library System on Martin Luther King Avenue.
The forum, which Peopples has presented for more than 15 years, is one of the library's most popular events of the year and is attended by all ages, from teens to adults.
Guests are invited to bring original works to share, or they can recite verses or passages by their favorite writers. They can sing or tell a story. Anything goes, as long as its related to the theme of black history, Peopples said.
"It can be dramatic or humorous, whatever moves you," she said. "You can be a writer, a reader or a listener - there is something for everybody."
She said she usually wears something Afrocentric for the event and encourages attendees to do the same to show pride in their culture.
Peopples, who wrote her own book of poetry in 1994, said she didn't write anything new for the event this year, but will recite some of her previous works instead. Opening the floor to new talent keeps the event fresh and surprising, she said.
A retired nurse, Peopples always had a passion for writing poetry. And even at the young age of 12, she had a talent for reciting verse by memory. Her works include military poems, freedom poems, health-related poems, light-hearted poems and deeply meaningful verses. Her muse, she says, is life.
"It never gets old for me. I think of it as a little gift I was given. If I can offer comfort with my poetry, then I feel that I've served well," she said.
Peopples said the purpose of the event is to give a voice to black history. Over the years she has seen themes of anger and rebellion from younger generations and of reconciliation, reconnection and family-related themes from the older generation.
"But every voice has a purpose and that's what this is about, to express yourself," she said.
Seats fill quickly so guests should arrive early, Peopples said. If you would like to recite or read, there will be a sign-up sheet. Presentations do have a time limit.
Contact Lucia C. Drake:
If you go
Black History Poetry Celebration
6 to 7:30 p.m. Feb. 19
Pleasantville Branch of Atlantic County Library System, 33 Martin L. King Jr. Ave.