Deray McKesson | Wolf Blitzer Interview

Deray McKesson | Wolf Blitzer Interview

Eternal Graffiti was established as a platform to promote spoken word, but occasionally we find moments that we feel are as impactful and stunning as good writing performed powerfully. This clip left me without words this morning when I saw it. It is the kind of message that has not yet been digested by the American masses, it is the nucleus of the miscommunication between the communities most accused of overreacting in America and the media that accuses them. It is a brief moment in time that summons a striking visual and brings home a point that has not been said so simply or often enough. Watching this earlier reminded me of watching a great slam poem, where you root for the poet to win against all odds, just as I wanted McKesson to obliterate Wolf Blitzer, who obviously continued to miss the nuance in the conversation, as the media is so good at doing these days. Perfect 10s all around for this message and the patience it took to present it.

 

 

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Quentin “Q” Talley | What Had Happened Was…

Quentin “Q” Talley | What Had Happened Was…

Quentin “Q” Talley is a writer, performance poet, actor, director, and theater producer based in (ahem) Charlotte, North Carolina. He is the founder and artistic director of OnQ Performing Arts, a theater company that has produced classic and original works everywhere from Charlotte to Off-Broadway theaters in NYC and even two runs at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland. As a poet he has performed in all corners of the country, and has shared the stage with Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. “Q” has placed in the top twelve in the Individual World Poetry Slam, and has won the Southern Fried Regional Poetry Slam as well as InkSlam.

Q has long been an anchor in the Charlotte artistic community as well as one of my personal best friends. His endless energy and artistic spirit has carried an entire generation of poets and actors in Charlotte. I have personally seen Q go far beyond the traditional level of commitment to his craft and that commitment has shown me just how much artists sacrifice for their ambitions and beliefs. I and many others in the greater Charlotte and Southern Friend community owe a great deal to Q. The least of which are all of the laughs inspired by this ingeniously funny poem. Enjoy and support Q using the links that follow the video.

 

 

Follow along with “Q” using the links below:

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Amir Sulaiman | We Must Win

Amir Sulaiman | We Must Win

I have been off the grid for the past week, upon my arrival back to reality I see that Baltimore is burning, and I see that another black life is gone at the hands of excessive police force. All of the usual suspects seem to be in place as well, CNN is running this story non-stop but they seem to keep focusing on looting, as they always do.

They are focused on the “out-of-hand protesters”, and not the civil ones. We all know that the actual looting is a very small percentage of activity of the protest. I see the same people coming on Facebook talking about how “they understand we are upset, but rioting and looting are not the answer”  I see them saying “All lives matter” but they don’t, they should, but our system has shown over and over that they don’t. This is apparent in the fact we are even having this conversation, that black boy’s life did not matter when they where fracturing his spine.

I go to these peoples timelines and see if they have made any status about the brutal beating of Freddie Gray, about a man having a broken spine and busted voicebox at the hands of the cops. Nothing….so you cannot get outraged by that, but you can get outraged about the looting, in a community that you don’t even have a sliver of a connection with

You can miss me with it.

How does your living room feel? is it comfortable? is that a down blanket on your bed? Are your kids sleeping down the hall, are they safe, are they alive? Did you check their breath before they laid down, was their windpipe not a crumbled monument, was their spine not bent into a question mark, asking how many black boys have to die before you realize that our justice system is indeed broken.

No one cares about your fake outrage, no one cares about your lazy fingers finally feeling the responsibility to speak out cause you saw a check cashing store window get busted in. How about you go into your community, your salon, your church and have conversations about how black men are getting executed by the hands of the Police industrial complex in america.

I will care about your outrage when you start having those conversation

The media will always inflate this, they will focus on the protest that involve looting not the ones that do not. It is our responsibility not to propagate these lies, not to give more wind to the sails of this shock TV.

Today’s poem is by a poet that can say all of these things and say them way better than me. Amir Sulaiman is one of my favorite poets on the planet and this is by far my favorite poem of his. The poem is packed with raw emotion and there are a couple places in the poem where I was FourFive seconds from crying.

“Standing on my brothers body, Are you NOT ENTERTAINED” 

amir

 

 

 

 

 

How Much Do Our Venues Influence Our Poetry?

I came up in the spoken word arena in Charlotte, North Carolina where the performance poets had two major venues to perform their work: SlamCharlotte and TouchOne Thursdays. Our hometown slam, which started a few years before I came around, was and still is one of the most opportune environments for an unbiased and fair experience in slam, or at least as fair as fair can be in slam. We had our slams in a theater downtown with a consistent judge who never competed, who brought every poet to the stage with the same enthusiasm, who went far out of their way to find audience members who had never been to a slam before to judge and then educated them on not only how to judge but also how to be consistent and how to handle score creep. Now in all my days traveling I’ve been to slams where the host made a far bigger deal over one poet than any others, I’ve seen consistent slams where the host was always a poet who’d competed the week or month before, hell I even know a poet who once told me without shame that they’d hosted, kept score and competed in a slam before that they themselves were promoting (ain’t that some shit?). My point is, that when all is said and done, I have so very much to owe to SlamCharlotte for being the kind of place where I could truly test out my work and get real live results. A great slam environment should be like a good science experiment without any elements that could taint the outcome.

Now when it came to Thursday nights, that was a different animal. TouchOne Thursdays at WineUp (now UpStage) was for years my second education in how to play with an audience. And by play with I don’t mean influence or manipulate, I mean it the same way one musician plays with another. It was at TouchOne that I learned to let a poem breathe and find unexpected moments where I could allow the audience catch up to a punchline or break the tempo of a poem for dramatic effect. JC Cowan who hosted and founded TouchOne ran a tight ship and ran more of a ‘closed mic’ or an invite only show than a traditional ‘open mic’ and because of that he put on one of the best and most consistent shows I’ve seen in all my years touring. TouchOne also taught me how to rock with a band, how to keep an audience entertained, how to have a good time outside of the traditional three minute time limit in slam. Looking at it all now, I think the South in particular has a lot of events that are more descendant of the juke joint than the any poetry reading. I think our format at TouchOne was more chittlin cirquit and less literary critique.

Between the two I often find myself in moments of extreme gratitude for how I came into this artform. I have the training of a great sterile slam venue and practice of an everyday exchange with people sitting in a room listening to my work. I know, however, that there are a great many reasons people come out to perform spoken word all over and there are just as many different types of venues that then influence the genetic makeup of the scene and the work that is produced by that scene’s artists. The Nuyorican Poet’s Café is to me almost a perfect split-down-the-middle atmosphere for the two educations I had in Charlotte, while the Green Mill in Chicago to me seems far more steeped in a working class writer literary tradition, Da Poetry Lounge in L.A. apart from being in a performance heavy town, seems to me to be a venue with great storytellers and well choreographed theatrics. Every venue is different and each has something to offer those that hone their skills on it’s stage.

Tell us about your own experiences with venues and their effects on your style in the comments below

 

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Black Ice | Truth Is | Curated by G Yamazawa

Black Ice | Truth Is | Curated by G Yamazawa

So there’s like The Last Poets, Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez, Gil Scott Heron, and then it’s Black Ice. ( He was named by Sonia and Gil, within two weeks, on separate occasions– they both told him he was like Black Ice because they didn’t see him comin’, and he was cold as shit. ) This was the first spoken word poem I’ve ever heard. I was like 15 years old and illegally downloading music and came across the audio recording of this poem from Def Poetry and it blew me away. Never had I heard someone use their rhyme and timing in that manner, and the reaction from the crowd was the affirmation I needed to believe that this was, indeed, the truth. Black Ice was the first/only poet to ever be signed to Def Jam Records, and ripped Rap City Tha Basement to shreds. It was the first time I saw an emcee be respected as a poet, and vice versa. It was the epitome of what I wanted to become. I listened to this day and night, over and over, and it truly became a song that I engraved into my heart. When he says “Fuck a deal, God gives me what I’m worth,” it was at a crucial time when I felt like although I had the potential to be an emcee, I wasn’t willing to compromise my moral sensibility for “the industry.” (even though I was 15 and had no idea about the music industry and real life lol, but I had a feeling that I would have to change who I am in order to appeal to a larger audience). And even though I grew up Buddhist and didn’t understand the concept of God, I was beginning to understand the value of my own worth, and hearing that line was confirmation that I would never have to sacrifice myself for the art that I create.

 

 

Keep up with Black Ice using the following links:

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Follow along with G using the following links:

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