Saturday, December 10, 2016


by Tony Boyd

            The eleventh incarnation of the Poetic Justice Open Mic night brought with it a new venue. PJOM was held at the fledgling theatre called Artist Laboratory Theatre. It is a smaller, homey, more intimate venue. It’s the brainchild of Erika Wilhite and her partners to provide a neighborhood type venue to provide a diversity of artistic expression.

            Our MCs for the night were Jared Carter and Steve Toston better known as D.J. Jockstrap and Mr. Ladebac. The atmosphere was subdued. Patrons trickled in at their leisure. The MCs got the night started off by discussing how and why Umoja Soul Writers’ Group (the spearhead of Poetic Justice Open Mic night) puts on the poetry slam. One of the main purposes of PJOM is to provide an open forum for anyone to discuss their experiences with and feelings of social injustice. It can be therapeutic.

            With all of that out of the way, our first performer steps to the mic and its Jared Carter with one of his always though-provoking untitled pieces. It had no name but if you listened you could glean a sense of what he was trying to convey. In this case, I felt he was conveying the difference between the privilege of white people vs. the lack of privilege experienced by so many people of color. The sentiments he wanted to convey were conveyed as a verbally painted tapestry. So awful is social injustice.

            Not to be outdone, our other MC, Steve Toston, step to the mic to drop some knowledge and understanding. His piece was entitled “Race Was Invented for Division. He seemed to point out the stupidity and futility of race proven by science to be just a made up thing. It’s a source of so much separation, divisiveness, mistrust, and conflict. Not to say there wouldn’t be any of those things without the artificial construct of race just that they might be based in reality.

            I have been to all of the PJOM nights. I have seen some incredible performances. So when I tell you a young lady named Regina blew up the stage, you can believe me. She blew up the dang stage. Regina sang a riveting, soul-stirring, a cappella song with the assist of just one key to start called “Sadness Dismiss”. It was a touching look at the sadness of loss and the strength to face it. Her voice was so very moving inducing you to feel as she felt. I guess you can tell I was impressed by her performance. Did I point out that she was a newcomer?
            We had other poignant performances including a young gentleman by the name of Dillon who brought political discourse to the night, reflecting on the recent presidential election. Yolanda waxed poetic about Black men being in danger and the Black Lives Matter movement. Jared sprung a named piece on us called “America The Beautiful”. Here’s a hint: Its not like the song. Another newcomer, Lola B. laid bare her soul and poured out her heart to us as she spoke of her bouts of depressions and the causes behind them. It took a lot of guts to open up like that. Being able to express openly in a safe, supportive environment is one of the main things that Poetic Justice Open Mic night is about.

            Lady Jazmynne, singer, poetess, and activist, opined about what it meant to be a house n—ger vs a Uncle Tom back in the day. Then she compared it to what’s going on today. She pointed out that her perception of a 20th century House Negro is someone who feels they already have a piece of the proverbial pie and identify with the oppressor.

            The night carried on with many heartfelt revelations of heartache, pain, and childhood strife. Speakers were able to share without judgment. We also had some lively freestyle from our MCs.

            All and all it was a good night. It was an intimate gathering in an intimate setting that encouraged the participants to open up. There was a take away for each and every one of us. Thanks to Erika Wilhite and the Artist Laboratory Theatre for hosting. Be one the look out for announcements about future events.
Erika Wilhite
Jared Carter

Lady Jazmynne Matthews

Lady Jazmynne & F.L. Jones

F.L. Jones

Steve "Mr. Ladebac" Toston