Tampa Wordsmith

Take Out Your Voter Registration CardTake out Your Voter Registration Card

Look back only for as long as you must,

Then go forward into the history you will make.

Alberto Rios

 

This card is for information only.

Yet the voice of the voter registration card

calls us to citizenship.

 

Blue font declares the details

of precinct and polling place,

party and registration date.

 

Black font conveys

personal particulars—

registration number, birth and issue dates.

 

For emphasis, red font proclaims

     VOTE BY MAIL

     EARLY VOTING

     ELECTION DAY

Important, it says.

 

The whole card repeats itself in Spanish,

mother tongue of Ybor City. Importante, it affirms,

in the second language of our grandkids.

 

The blue name of the supervisor announces itself

in italics, next to the official seal in red-white-and-blue,

round as a winner’s laurel wreath.

The little card looks back a quick century

at citizenship muzzled because of race and sex—

poll taxes, secret ballots, literacy tests.

 

We go forward on Election Day.

 

You need a signed photo ID,

but the voice of your registration card

will keep humming so that you might

show your card to the poll worker,

who will thank you for being there,

though you should be thanking her.

 

Watch how carefully she looks through her binder

for your address and legal name.

How respectfully she hands back your card,

holding between her forefinger and thumb

the authorized seal, that sanctioned circle,

the blue font across it inclusive, constitutional.

 

We the people, it says.

Then its voice sounds from your ballot

like a wish, a privilege, and a right.

 

We the People, calling you to participate.

Gianna Russo


Mayor Castor Appoints Gianna Russo as Wordsmith

Gianna Russo as Wordsmith

Mayor Jane Castor has appointed the City’s first Wordsmith, local writer and educator, Gianna Russo. As part of the Art on the Block program, an initiative by Mayor Jane Castor that brings art and artists into the neighborhoods, Ms. Russo will be working with communities through workshops and projects in various neighborhoods throughout the City, as well as leading city-wide participation like to recent “Haiku from Home” project.

The City of Tampa recognizes the power and value of self-expression and acknowledges that the written word expressed through poetry, creative writing and verse can be a platform to engage and empower Tampa’s citizens and neighborhoods.   

A lifelong educator, Ms. Russo designed and instituted the creative writing program at Blake Magnet School of the Arts in Tampa in 1997. In 2011, Ms. Russo joined the faculty of the Department of Language Studies and the Arts at Saint Leo University. She serves as editor-in-chief of the university’s literary magazine Sandhill Review and is currently Saint Leo’s inaugural Poet-in-Residence for the Collage of Arts and Sciences and scholarly journal Rebus