Monday, August 31, 2015

The INSPIRATIONAL Groove!! by Tony E. Boyd

Experiencing Poetic Justice IV 
by Tony E. Boyd
Hostess Stacy "LIFE" Harper
I missed the last Poetic Justice due to the loss of a beloved family member. Poetic Justice IV made up for it. The night was filled with performances that could not help but to uplift hearts, tickle funny bones, and stir one’s soul. If you weren’t able to attend, to put it bluntly, you missed out.

Poetry slams are usually laid back affairs in my experience. They start slow and gain momentum. Our talented MCs for the evening, Leora Jackson (stage name: F.L. Jones) and Stacy Harper (stage name L.I.F.E. – Life In Front of Everything) directed a smooth flow that started as a babbling brook and ended as rolling river. Powerful. That’s a word that came to mind a lot during the slam. From start to finish, I in awe of the talent assembled.

F. L. Jones

Doug Shields
F.L. Jones started off the festivities with a work of her own called “Teacher Behold This Child”. I would describe it as an ode to teachers espousing the virtues of being an educator. 

Next up, she welcomed to the stage Doug Shields, a personable instructor with an uncommon wit. His piece “Let’s Do That. Let’s Look At It From The Cop’s Point of View”, was a very powerful, insightful examination of what happened between Sandra Bland and the Texas justice system. His dramatic reading style and animated presentation added to the impact of his words. 

Doug was a tough act to follow but Steve Holst stepped up to the challenge and regaled us with a set of entertaining, and thought-provoking limericks. Steve’s limericks tackled the sometimes confusing, seemingly contradictory and unfair nature of religion, bibles and deities delivered with humorous intent. In order of reading, they were “Love Poem To My Species”, “So Go Ahead Then”, “Statutory Immaculate Conception”, “Second Coming, Slow Down Darling”, “Busy Being”, “Angry Young Poets”, “Sound of One Frigging Slipping”, “God’s Good Lawyers”, and “Popcorn Colors”. It seems like a lot but they were short and poignant. 
Steve Holst

Next up, F.L. Jones returned to the stage and channeled James Weldon Johnson by reading his piece, “The Creation”. If you’ve never heard of it, look it up. It’s worth your reading time.

Our other charismatic MC, L.I.F.E. returned to the stage to perform her ever-evolving piece with interchangeable parts called, “I Will Sing”, a mixture of song and prose. The way it’s structured, she can perform the same piece over and over and it never has to be exactly the same every time. Within it, she plucks bits from the headlines, stories that need to be heard, highlighted and interweaves it into “I Will Sing”. That’s one of the things about the Poetic Justice slams. They serve as a venue of expression of emotions that one might not have otherwise. It’s a place to reflect on the things going on around you in the world, a place to share your frustration, pain, sadness, joy, hope, and happiness. 

That freedom to express how you feel is exemplified by Tina Gaston's choice to read (via smart phone recording) a poem entitled “An Overreaction: Words on #BlackLivesMatter and MLK” by Sarah O’Neal. It’s a rousing push back against efforts to trivialize our community’s right to be outraged and to show rage about injustices against our community. Said piece is available to watch on YouTube at

Leora Jackon has a piece called “Oh Valentine” which she performs with a singer (in this case, L.I.F.E.) that never fails to cause my heart to weep. It’s about domestic violence, a somber topic that has touched so many of our lives.

Rosalyn Laurie
Heaviness was not all there was to be had by the packed house. Levity was interwoven to lighten the mood, add a little chuckle here and there. Rosalyn Laurie provided the house with two humorous, anecdotal pieces that brought smiles to people’s faces. Her first, entitled “Good or Bad” discussed the world through the eyes of a child considered handicapped but in more ways than one may be more able than those around him. The second piece was more of a fun little ditty about a man and his roadkill possum called “I Wouldn’t Recommend The Ice Water”. 

Comedienne Kaia first performed a piece, a sort of ode to Michelle Duggar, entitled “Live In Fiction. She later returned to do a bit of stand-up for the appreciative crowd.

There were singers and songs with original lyrics. Wavy J. stepped to the mike to perform “My People Dying” (pretty self-explanatory). Afterwards, he was followed on stage by another singer, Michael. He sang his original song “Not The Hustle”, a poignant ballad reporting the tragic death of a sleeping 7 year old Ayiana Jones. 
Michael (left) and Wavy J

Later on they both returned to the stage to do a duet about police brutality entitled “Black Male”. It was important to them to get across that the police personified in their song were not all police but the select few who go beyond the scope of their job description and rules to take the law into their own hands. 

Michael earned an “Awwwwwww” and applause from the assembled crowd for the love song he performed for the love of his life standing in the audience. Poetic Justice is spontaneous and unpredictable like that. Good for them.

Lakeesha Shaw
Poetic Thoughts
As the “river” continued to flow, we were blessed with more clever wordplay, grownfolk prose, entertaining analogies. Brandon Poetic Thoughts’ “I Am Drunk In Love Off of Poetry” and LaKeesha Thomas Shaw’s “Forget The G Spot, Hit The B Spot” both used witty juxtaposition of terms to convey their respective messages. Just the titles get your attention, right? Brandon’s vivid description of his relationship with his poetry was both humorous and profound. We all had an “Oh?” moment listening to LaKeesha educate us on the merits of concentrating on the B spot rather than the G spot. If you don get it, go listen to her perform it sometime. All will be made clear.

 Brandon later returned to the stage to perform “Who Should Really Be Scared”, an older piece of his referring to racist perceptions.

So many exceptional performances, all deserve to be mentioned. Here is a list of the rest of the performers and the name of their pieces:
Jim Dudley
Sam Nguyen
J – “Music Appreciation Through The Years” and “I Wish I Was Dreaming Instead”
Jim Dudley – “Perseus”
Luka – “The H Word”
Cherokee – “Jesus, I Heard You Knocking”
Sam Nguyen – “Misplaced Feeling”
Anna – “Fumble”
Kim – “Slave Trade Out of Ghana”
T – “Boxes”
Serif – “Obliquity”



Some performances were calm, deliberate and demure. Others were intense, physical, and in your face. Not the type of stuff you could just ignore. If you get a chance to see any of these talented performers, poets, singers, comedians perform, do it. You will be the better for it.

Stay tuned for the next Poetic Justice in October.


Story and photos by Tony E. Boyd

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

#SayHerName NWA Candlelight Vigil

A Community Gathers Together to Say Their Names
by Leora Jackson

Fayetteville, AR  There were over 20 names of Black Women shown on the SayHerName NWA Candlelight Vigil presentation Saturday, August 15 at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, however those names were just a tiny fraction of the total representation of women of color who were killed by law enforcement in the past decade, and the recent death of Sandra Bland has created an awareness that #SayHerName need to be in the forefront of Social Justice.

Tina Gaston of HandsUpNWA and Leora Jackson of Umoja Soul NWA came together to host a local candlelight vigil called “SayHerName in honor of many black women who were killed in the hands of law enforcement. What turned out to be a simple Facebook dialogue between a Facebook friend about protests that are happening across the U.S. in relationship to the death of Sandra Bland, turned into an event that welcomed different Peace Organizations such as OMNI Center for Peace, Justice & Ecology, The Other Arkansas, Northwest Arkansas Chapter of the NAACP, Dept of Social Work and more.

 A lot of people were upset about things happening and wanted to join in to see what NWA would do locally in recognition of Sandra Bland and other women of color who have been reported as committing suicide. Bland's family and majority of the African American community have suspected foul play, and have demanded the Department of Justice to intervene.

“We are working on issues of injustices in the local, state, and National level to ensure that local voices would be heard. We will make sure to take this forward and address these issues in Arkansas Democratic Black Caucus, and in the National Urban League, said D’Andre Jones.

With the lack of publicity of Black women of color in main stream media, Jackson and Gatson knew that discussions on this issue were needed.

Dr. Valandra, Associate Professor of Social Work and African and African American Studies, stated she was concerned about the misrepresentation of black girls in the educational system as well.

“Black girls are now involved in more school suspensions than ever before”, she said,  and this leads to a disproportionate number of black girls being referred to law enforcement and some of the reasons for referrals is non-violent offenses which leads to the pipeline to prison epidemic."

Jackson, co-organizer of the event said in her speech that the media gives a lot of recognition to the black men who have died due to police violence, and when a black woman dies, it doesn’t get as much respect and very little attention.  She read a poem entitled, Why can’t we say her name.

“Why can’t we say her Name? Yes we have names of Black Men who were killed, shot, and beat on street. So, we hear their names, Repeat, Repeat and Repeat! But what about Her Name?? What about the mother, who had a son,  and he was the age of 1, when she was killed under the gun, while holding her son, in her arms. This mother had a name. Her Name was Tarika Wilson, Please say her name," Jackson asked the audience.

And the audience repeated, “Tarika Wilson!”

Gatson then showed a Power Point presentation acknowledging 20 women of color during the candlelight vigil. Some names were Miriam Carey (Washington, D.C.) – 34 years old, Shereese Francis (Queens, New York) – 30 years old, Shauntel Davis (Brooklyn, New York) – 23 years old Sharmel Edwards (Las Vegas, Nevada) – 49 years old, Rekia Boyd (Chicago, Illinois) – 22 years old, Tyisha Miller (Riverside, California) – 19 years old, Yvette Smith (Bastrop, Texas) – 47 years old, and Tanisha Anderson, age 37, Cleveland

J’onnelle Colbert-Diaz, NAACP Representative and member a Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, wanted to make sure the audience understood that while this was a Say Her Name vigil, we should replace her name with OUR name and understand the significance.

“Think of your son’s name, your daughter’s names, or replace HER name with YOUR name. The names would mean a whole lot more if it were someone we knew or if it was one of us. But this can happen to any of us. We could be THAT name,” she said.

Colbert-Diaz also asked the audience if they remembered the 1991 beating of Rodney King and everyone raised their hands. When asked if they remember the hate crime murder of Latarsha Harlins, no one raised their hands.  She was killed by an Asian store owner 15 days after Rodney King.

Black women disputes such as domestic violence, and hate crime assaults are not reported to the media as much. More recently, there have been incidences of hate crimes targeted toward transgender women.

Gaston read a story from a Black woman in Little Rock, Tiommi Luckette who was brutalized by Little Rock Police Department. The woman happened to be Transgender and ending up being harassed, bullied, degraded and surviving the most antagonizing ordeal she had ever faced.

“I constantly pray for the day that I can repress my experiences with the criminal justice system here in Little Rock, Arkansas,” said Gaston, 

Many people were very well pleased with the event. A lot of support and contacts were made. This was a very pleasant event that portrayed UNITY in the CommUNITY.

Umoja Soul NWA and HandsUpNWA will host Poetic Justice Open Mic on August 28, from 8pm-11pm. 
See the Facebook Event Invite for more information: Poetic Justice Open Mic Event Invite

Photos by Irvin Camacho of Natural Dreamers
More Photos by Irvin Camacho

An overreaction to #BlackLivesMatter -