Friday, August 05, 2005


see times like this are when this blog thing comes in handy. i been meaning to get around to explaining why going to an open mic or a featured spoken word performance is important to me. but see i didn't want to write a poem or put it in my private journal (i know you don' t think this is my only journal). i wanted others to be able to read and see what i'm talking about.

first, the reason i started going. i was working at a place where my hair could not be the fuzzy or curly or blown out bushy mess that i have come to love and appreciate. i was soooo wearing the mask. and yeah i know, i know, i can change the world starting with me, bla bla bla, whatever. you try walking up in my job after wearing your hair bone straight and rocking what they want you to wear, and then call yourself having an epiphany and going up in there looking like cree summer's kid sister. i don't feel like the, "what did you do," "ooh, can i touch it"s. nor do i feel like having the words "professional" or "appropriate" hurled at me like unspoken-but-really-spoken accusations of what i'm sposed to be doing but ain't. i'll wear the mask (shoot, even a lot of white people wear the mask), but i will not tap dance. somebody will mess around and knock this chip off my shoulder and then i'ma wind up calling one of my peoples for the bail money and embarrassing my parents. bony fist all up in somebody's adam's apple. anyway, i felt this tension of being in an environment full of people that i have to wear a mask with, and it alarmed me. i needed to figure out a way (being away from the place where i grew up) to be around folks i could be fuzzy with.

i snooped around the internet and stumbled upon a website that told me about this place in norfolk. which had a blurb about this place in richmond (tropical soul, 2-st off of broad). which was about 15-20 minutes from my house (everything is 20 minutes apart in richmond) and had open mic on tuesdays. after work on tuesday, i shoved my work hair into a knit cap and paid my five dollars and was treated to my first experience. and maaaan, wednesday morning i didn't even mind going to work, cause the night before, i got high off contact with other beautiful black people and i was too busy feening for next tuesday to worry about the burden of wearing the mask. i loved the atmosphere. the place is about the size of somebody's living room, okay? between the bar and the stage, that was 1/3 of the space right there. so between the tables, chairs and couches, everybody was in there tight. not violating-my-personal-space tight, but wow, i'm-up-close-enough-to-have-to-look-you-in-the-eye-to-pass-you tight. the artists were passionate, the host was personable, and the audience participated in everything. we were back up singers, beat keepers, amen-ers, go'ne head-ers. that is what is up.

i've since left richmond. so now i drive to spots around here. and there is so much more variety. SOMEbody is doing SOMEthing every. night. of. the. week!!! y'all don't know how much i love philly. but i'll tell you one thing. so far, of the few venues i've been to, only one can rival tropical soul when it comes to enthusiasm. i wouldn'ta thought that. i mean this is PHILLY. hello??? home of jill and kindred, bahamadia, the roots and countless other poets known and unknown... i'm wondering if maybe some of these venues started out with that fiyah and then died down for some reason. maybe if it was only one night a week around here, people would appreciate it more.

lemme ask why somebody would take the time to come out and bring their fiveorten dollars and sit in the art gallery/museum/lounge or what have you to give a lackluster welcome to the artists - the people who set aside their stage fright, or set aside the privacy of their most passionate expressions of themselves? people need to appreciate and support the art before we lose it. i got in front of people for the first time to read my stuff (which is meant more for paper than the mic) maybe about 2 months ago. it felt good to see the looks of recognition in people's eyes when i told my heart and they felt where i was coming from cause they had been there too. that's what i was looking for, to know that somebody was listening. feeling some type of way. thinking about something, at least.

see i think this way - you know why these venues and these writers and these audience members are precious? the same reason why our churches and mosques are precious. this is our legacy - we are communal people. i challenge anyone to show me a place in the diaspora that doesn't have some gathering of souls for sharing and airing the truth and glorifying the Creator and what was created. these gatherings are how we minister to each other's souls. how we educate each other and share in the wonder and the pain and the joy of the human experience. the african experience. y'all betta recognize, these bonds we have are golden. and while i'm at it, do you know how priceless a blessing it is to my self-esteem to be in the presence of all these black people who are DOing the damn thing?

when i go to open mics, i am checking y'all out. every last one of you. looking all beautiful and handsome. all your beautiful african skin tones and native american cheekbones from the ebonies to the redbones, i love you. i love myself when i look at you. i feel smart when i hear your intelligence poured forth upon our listening heads like an anointing of blessed oil. i feel loved and appreciated when brothers get on the mic and talk about their love for their mama, or their lady, or the unnamed sista that's got it going on. i feel like i am not alone when my sisters get on the mic to talk about brothers and life and love and wearing the mask. poets, i tip my hat to each and every one of you. you are leaders in your own way. you are my generation's renaissance except we worldwide now, shoot, we even on hbo now. and like the jazz generation, the harlem renaissance generation, i can talk to my children with pride and authority, knowing that what the last poets started wasn't dropped by us. that my generation picked up that ball and not only learned from it but preserved and further developed the art, resurrected and nurtured the griots inside of us, and remembered to love ourselves and each other with words.

if you ain't been to an open mic, or you've been, but you never realized how important they are, why don't you go? check it out. and if you write, get on the mic. it took me forever, but a certain poet let me know that you never know what the Creator is trying to work through you, so you shouldn't hide that talent. and when and if you go, recognize that if we're going to keep this going, you got to support the artists, clap for them, give your ear over to them, holla back from the audience, give them some eye contact - let them feel you. support the sponsors. buy the cd's. oh, and uh, for real this time (not like work, or other places i won't name) you can and should come as you are...

it's a way to increase our love and solidarity as a people - just by listening to each other's words.