March 22, 2024

Featured Falcons: Salaam Green

Salaam Green is a storyteller at heart. Writing poetry helped her through dark times in her life. She never expected it to become part of her career or something she could one day use to help others, but she will be doing exactly that as the city of Birmingham’s inaugural poet laureate. 

Salaam Green“I am a lover of words and the way that words bring us closer to who we are as humans,” the Greensboro, Alabama native said. “I feel that I’ve been gifted a voice to help other people use their voices to heal their lives.” 

Green loved creative writing from an early age. Searching for a place where she could hone her skills while learning more about English, Green chose to attend the University of Montevallo. She graduated in 1999 with a Bachelor of Arts in English and was a founding member of UM’s Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. chapter. 

“It had always been on my heart to try to get into Montevallo,” she said. “It was close to home, and I was looking for a small school that really fit into my personality. I wanted a space where I could build community and work closer with professors, and the English department was stellar.” 

Green went on to earn her Master of Science in Early Childhood Education from the University of North Dakota. She spent 15 years in early childhood education but became extremely burned out in the field. She returned to her foundation of writing and creativity and looked to create space for others to utilize their creative skills.  

In 2016, Green founded The Literary Healing Arts as a tool to support her and others’ mental health journeys. Through LHA, she promotes the power of writing for self-healing, growth and mental wellbeing, and organizes workshops where she teaches participants to “write their voices back into their lives.” LHA mainly operates in Birmingham, but Green has also done work throughout the state and country. 

“I’ve worked with everyone from third-graders all the way up to people who are at the end of life,” she said. “People really gravitate towards a brave space where they can express themselves and use writing as a way to reflect.” 

When applications opened for Birmingham’s first poet laureate in August 2023, Green was encouraged by many to apply since the work she was already doing in the community was similar to what the position called for. 

This new role was created in partnership with the Alabama State Council on the Arts, the city of Birmingham and Create Birmingham, a nonprofit organization that invests in the development of performing and visual arts. The organizations sought out a Birmingham citizen with knowledge of poetry and a sense of connection to the community. Green was one of hundreds of applicants. 

After rigorous rounds of interviews, screening and evaluation, Green was announced as the poet laureate in December and sworn in on Jan. 30. In this role, she will spend the next two years writing original poems for the city of Birmingham, which she will construct into an anthology, and working with local schools, libraries and other organizations to find ways to bring poetry and creativity into those spaces as a supportive tool. 

“I’m very surprised, but very grateful and honored,” she said. “Birmingham has a phenomenal arts and culture sector — the community is robust with folks who are amazing in the work that they’re doing. I feel that this is a role that I can powerfully do with the city and with the creative community.” 

“I never thought that later in life I would go back to poetry as a second career or chosen career,” Green said. “I perform something that’s culturally entertaining, but for me, poetry is a tool towards activation for liberation in all parts of human life, including legislation and civic engagement. I hope in this position that I’m able to show how poetry can turn the human experience back into the dignity in which we were called to do so.”