Friday, March 4, 2016

The Groove ends at Common Grounds

The Groove Can’t Be Stopped, But It Can Be Moved
by Tony Boyd

PJOM 7 Hostess Patricia Rodriquez and Lakeesha Shaw

Poetic Justice VII was special and unique in that it signaled the end of its affiliation with Common Grounds. Common Grounds has been the de facto home of the Poetic Justice movement born of the mind of Leora Jackson, creator and leader of Umoja Soul Writers Group (USWG). Poetic Justice has given a voice to the voiceless, an outlet to express, a platform to pontificate, a pulpit to preach, a stage to sing. It has created an avenue to bring joy, knowledge, entertainment and calls to action, all within the familial confines of our dear Common Grounds. For me, the evening seemed to have a finality feel to it. And that’s not the case. Poetic Justice will continue its groove in another venue at another time. Can’t stop the groove. It has a life of its own.

The night’s theme was about Love and War.  Each participant was tasked with bringing his or her own interpretation of love and of war to the stage.  A packed house was on hand to witness the final slam at Common Grounds. The room was relatively quiet as Leora Jackson ventured to the stage to introduce the hosts for the night. She opened with a welcome and followed with some information about our MCs. First she introduced Patricia Rodriguez, an activist and Social Work major followed by LaKeesha Nikohl, board member of USWG and computer technician. With that out of the way, it was time to get things started.
Tammy Perry
Leora Jackson, Umoja Soul Founder

David Druding

LaKeesha set the mood with an acapella rendition of Carol King’s “You’ve Got A Friend” and a quote from Anne Landers.  She then introduced the first participant of the night, David Druding. David’s time was spent discussing the state of injustice in America where might (money, greed, and unfair practices) make right when dealing with minorities.  He made the relevant point about more schools being torn down while more jails are being built. A fact that seems to be lost on the powers that be. This was definitely not about the love so the privileged are at war to keep the status quo or at least the benefits there in.
Gene Williams

Tonya McCoy "MrsShiny"

Tameka Ramsey and Tonya McCoy

David was quickly followed to the stage by Patricia to introduce Laasean. She graced us with a poem entitled “My Sweet Hate” about relationship woes and obsession. Afterwards, she performed Deniece Williams’ “Black Butterfly” to a rousing round of applause.  LaKeesha returned to the mic to continue her emphasis on the night’s theme by performing a bit of Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing”. She engages the crowd each time by giving them a snippet of each song allowing them to figure out which one she is referring to. She’s using her time on the mic as teaching moments with humor and song. That and to bring up the next acts. This time, she brought to the stage local poet extraordinaire, Houston Hughes.  Let me just say my dear readers, Houston did not disappoint.  With rousing cadence, rhythm and rhyme, Hughes held the crowd in the palm of his hand.  I watched as they smiled and they clapped. They guffawed and amen-ed. They rocked back in forth in their seats with an approving laughter. What he had to say made a lot of sense and was entertaining too. He took to task the mega rich churches and their unwritten rules and their teach one thing, do another way of doing things. His insight was refreshing, his subject matter troublesome. Yes, Houston made an impression. The crowd let him know it too with thunderous  applause. He was a tough act to follow but follow someone must. 
Jared Carter

Danette Simmons

Anne Shelley

Patricia stepped to the mic to introduce the next act coming to the stage. Jared Carter stepped to the stage with an original piece about incarceration both physical and mental. It also entreaties Black people to stand up for themselves. Not a long piece but made its point. Snap snap goes the crowd and he exits the stage.

It was Patricia’s turn to return to the stage.  She took the opportunity to discuss a bit about her dating life. She entitled it “Adventures of Online Dating of A Latina in Arkansas”. She was reluctant to do it at first but with encouragement from the audience she proceed to regale us with tales of Tulsa Guy, Crazy Legs, Motorcycle Guy and Iron Worker. Three of her blind dates were terrible, one was not.  It only sucked because he didn’t call back. I guess that’s just the nature of dating. Following Patricia, LaKeesha dons the stage with a snippet of Tevin Campbell’s “I’m Ready” in keeping with the love theme. Apparently, the audience and LaKeesha have similar tastes in music because the vast majority got the song she was referencing in a couple of sentences. With that LaKeesha brought to the stage a relative newcomer, Ms. Michelle, back after her first performance at Poetic Justice VI.  Her original piece “Inside” pointed out that everyone wants to be loved. A quality in a man that she wants (not that she’s advertising for one), is one who knows himself and knows his God.

A shy, quiet young lady was called to the stage next to perform. I apologize Lola. Your voice was so low hear what you had to say. I applaud you for finding the courage to stand in front of the crowd and share of yourself. My suggestion for the next time you perform at Poetic Justice VIII (I hope you do) I suggest to project a bit more. Let us hear that which you have created. Stand proud and strong. Let your voice give form to your words. Allow them to be touch the souls of your listeners.  We applaud your effort as did the crowd.

Upon gracing the stage once more, host Patricia Rodriguez read to us a poem by the son of illegal immigrants called “Baby On The Border”.  The poem encompasses the struggles of Latino Americans. Especially racism against Mexicans. It also touches on being torn between two worlds,  not Latino enough for the Mexicans in Mexico. Not American enough for America. Identity issues ensue.
Houston Hughes

Steph "The Poet"


Next up is a newcomer to the Poetic Justice stage. His name is Gene Williams. He brought with him an original piece called “I Shall Not Be Moved”.  It’s a collection of sad verse that speaks to long term care of a loved one. It advises that the best care for them is to love them. He did well for a first try. His words hit home with me because of my own family trials and travails. Great advice.

LL Cool J’s “I Need Love” marked LaKeesha’s next stint on the mic. Her use of germane lyrics and humor to hammer home the theme of the night helped to keep the audience focused on what was being presented.  Having accomplished that she brought Karma to the stage.  Karma read an original ode to her love, her deceased son who passed of sickle cell. It was a heart rending tale of love and sacrifice and pain. It touched hearts. Karma felt that her poem didn’t necessarily fit the theme of the night. However, she was reassured by the hosts and the audience that the Love theme encompassed all forms of love not just the romantic kind.

LaShaun returned to the stage with a poem about  physical love and an original song called “You Don’t Know What I Feel For You”.

Tina Gaston and Jared Carter sang a duet  of Keke Wyatt and Avant’s “Nothing In This World”.

Anne Shelley brought her characteristic flair to the stage with her haiku deriding racism, white privilege, among other things.

Rap artist Ms. Shine accompanied by a singer named Temeka served up her original song about the perils of blackness.

Tina returned to the stage  with a forceful piece about taking control of who you are, dignity, self-love and self-respect entitled “Who the Fuck Do You Think You Are?” Tina is a woman of  great conviction which shows powerfully in her work.

Steve Coger impressed at Poetic Justice VI with his spoken word and singing chops. This time brought his trumpet with him, showing another dimension of his artistic talent. He also told the story of living in Argentina for a time, falling in love with his grandmotherly (my word, not his) landlord. He spoke of how much he learned from her about the true power of love exemplified by how she carried a torch for the love of her life, her deceased husband.

Stacy L.I.F.E. Harper spoke of how sometimes we pick the wrong type of person for us. In to big of a hurry to BE with someone. Her original pieces often carry strong messages of learning to love yourself, lessons about life and advice on how to get your act together.

Steph the Poet got on the mic next to perform his original piece “Speed Dating”. He’s another of our fine poets with great vocal cadence and talent.  His lyrical performance engaged and excited the crowd. I’m pretty sure that’s why he keeps getting asked to come back.
Iesha Williams

Stephen Coger


Temeka returned to the stage, sans Ms. Shine on her birthday no less, to sing. Her song of choice was Chrisette Michelle’s “Golden”.  She’s one of those talents that can take someone else’s song and make it her own and make it just as beautiful as the original.
Danette Simmons, now a veteran, shared an original work with us entitled “Oh God, Forgive Me When I Whine”. Its basically about being thankful for what you have and not assuming the grass is always greener on the other side.

A party had been organized for after the slam, with a great DJ and all. There were all manner of Soul Train lines and I’m pretty sure I saw “The Bump”. There was line dancing and some (what I think was) twerking. No Whip-Nae Nae though. May have been if that song came on.  You get the picture though. Folks had fun.
Patricia Rodriguez

Lakeesha Shaw

Tina Gaston

Unfortunately, this was the last Poetic Justice at Common Grounds. But like I told you earlier, the Groove doesn’t stop.  We’ll be seeing you next time for Poetic Justice VIII in a new venue. That is, if you don’t want to miss out.

Stay tuned to another location soon!!