THE INSPIRATIONAL, TOUCHING POWER OF BEING
Experiencing Poetic Justice IV
by Tony E. Boyd
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|
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.
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 https://youtu.be/Frfq-ok8w_4 .
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.
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.
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:
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.
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Story and photos by Tony E. Boyd