Last October when crowds still gathered, the Arts Council of Winston-Salem & Forsyth County assembled together for its annual meeting at the Hanesbrands Theatre in The Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts. The arts were on display as awards were handed out to individuals who have made art their life and share their commitment to the arts with the public.
On this night, the ever-effusive and buoyant Larry Barron (aka LB the Poet) received the R. Philip Hanes Jr. Young Leader Award along with Suzy McCalley; her accomplishments will be featured in a future issue of Winston-Salem Monthly. The Young Leader Award is given to a person, or persons, 40 years old or younger, who has exemplified volunteer dedication, contributions and leadership, and furthered the missions of arts and cultural entities of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County.
Needless to say, it wasn’t the first time Barron had found himself at a podium.
It was just another day in his journey of spreading his love for poetry. For the man who believes in the power of the spoken word to transform lives, “every day is WINSDAY!” smiles Barron.
“You win every day when you use your voice to express yourself,” he says.
Since 2009, Barron has made it his mission to bridge the gap around the arts from “the ‘hood to Harvard.” The artist first discovered the power of expression through pen and paper when he was in the sixth grade. A teacher prompted him to write his feelings down after the death of his grandmother. He connected with his newfound medium of expression and never looked back.
Poetry slams and events, writing curriculum, and leading workshops fill Barron’s day and busy schedule. The Winston-Salem Poet Laureate (2017) first met the students at the Winston-Salem Street School who came to his book signing at the library. A bond was forged, and he started a Wednesday workshop at the school — a program that garners 100 percent attendance each week.
“If you help people to express themselves, you can alter their trajectory,” Barron says. “Poetry teaches them to identify and write their way through problems.”
Barron also founded the FEAR Academy (Future Entrepreneurs Activitating Reality) at the Street School. The academy works with students to develop a business plan, set up an LLC, and more with the help of local organizations and a grant from Truliant Federal Credit Union. Barron has plans to work with the Small Business Center of Forsyth Technical Community College, the Center for Private Business at Wake Forest University, and other entities.
The poetic man goes outside the classroom walls into the community to share his talents wherever there’s a need and an opportunity. He’s a regular headliner at the National Black Theatre Festival held every other year. In 2017, he headlined at the festival alongside W.O.R.D Society and in 2019 he hosted and headlined the new Words & Verses (formerly known as the Midnight Poetry Slam) event. Barron’s rising popularity was on display at the Words & Verses event with a packed house at the Benton Convention Center.
When life returns to normal post COVID-19, poetry and music lovers can find LB the Poet at The Ramkat music venue doing what he does best, bringing hope and passion for poetry to the people. And he credits his ability to connect with kids to his passion for poetry and art that he wears on his sleeve — literally.
“I can reach kids of all ages because I look different than the traditional leadership figure,” Barron says. “I have ‘locs [sic] and tattoos, so they can relate to me. Best of all, they know I care about their well-being.”