Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Awakening of the Groove

The Awakening of the Groove

Story by Tony E. Boyd, Contributing Writer

There's a groove growing in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

All of Northwest Arkansas for that matter. 
Aisling Thornton reading "An American Poem"
by Eileen Myles 

There's an unmistakable awakening of the heart and soul of the city. Now don't get me wrong, art has long been a big part of what the city was about. All manner of visual and performance art have been born and raised here over time. But the groove is relatively new. A groove that permeates the soul, lifts the spirit, and fills the heart. This is evidenced in the musical, spoken word and poetic performances popping up over town. I was lucky enough to attend one such performance Saturday, March 7th, 2015.

The Poetic Justice Open Mic Nite, sponsored by Umoja Soul Writers Group, and HandsUpNWA was held at The Common Grounds Gourmet Espresso Bar on Dickson Street. (Poetry and espresso just seem to go hand in hand, doesn't it?) It was a laid back atmosphere from the gitgo.
"Black Lives Will Matter" by Juana Washington

Before the evening's event started, various participants and onlookers ambled in, exchanginggreetings and hugs, shaking hands, laughing and joking. It was a jovial atmosphere, spurred on by the night's MC, Jared Carter. Jared handled the crowd like a seasoned performer, keeping things moving along and filling in the gaps with humor. 

To kick things off, there was an acapella song performed by Tina "Tina G." Gaston and Jared "Jared C." Carter. The   soulful voices intertwined as the crowd bounced to the beat. Afterward, Jared and Tina each performed a poem for the appreciative crowd. Next on the mic was Elliott Roeder who brought along saxophone accompaniment. His delivery was subtle and subdued, the essence of his prose slowly sinking in. The night was about justice and injustice.
Haley Smith reads her poem "Heirlooms."
Stacy "LIFE" Harper

Following Elliott, Juana Washington stepped to the mic and sent a metaphorical fire through the crowd. Her commanding presence and strong vocals added to the voracity of her message. She combined her prose with hints of gospel, oratory inflections held the audience in rapt attention from start to finish. Don't just plead for justice, demand it. 

Alexander Ross stepped to the mic to read a piece that he found particularly poignant, leaving the stage to thunderous snaps (as is the custom of poetry slams). Between each new performance, Jared steps up to offer glib remarks and encouraging any and all to participate if so inspired. 

Alexander Ross

At this time, he introduced an aspiring poet by the name of Curtis. Curtis stepped to the mic and launched into his stirring poem about injustice, inequality, and assumptions. The combination of his words and his delivery was the complete performance. The night continued with performances by Johnston Ewing, Mr. Ladebac, Kaia Hodo, Aisling Thornton, Haley Smith, F. L. Jones, L.I.F.E., Laasean Willis, Anne Shelley, and Marie. Its unfortunate that I had to leave before the end of the night.
Steven "Ladebac" Toston talks about
"Just Us" or Justice
 My experience at Poetic Justice Open Mic Nite was a soulful, stirring and inspiring one. Something about the rhythms, the rhymes, and melodies just stimulated a deeply resonate reaction within me. This is not an isolated event. The groove of the city is awakening and making itself heard.

So, please come and experience the Awakening of a New Groove on April 24, 2015 at Common Grounds as Umoja Soul Writers Group along with HandsUpNWA entertain you with Poetry, music, laughter and Justice for all!

To see more Photos of Poetic Justice, click HERE! 

Story and photos by Tony E. Boyd, Contributing Writer