Category Archives: thoughts

a quick 16

i’m not an ordinary man
i’m extra
   understand
even when i’m going IN
i keep an exit plan

eyes on all sides
they say they like my vision
learn lessons from the skies
on how to keep on giving

never gettin got
you can’t steal the rain
i’m not tom petty
but i’m free falling mayne

heartbreaker gimme glue
duct tape and a minute
life ain’t a competition
but they say i’m gonna win it

i say i’m dedicated
like the page after the title
ten thousand RPM’s
my heart’s never on idle

i’m gear-shifting, spirit-lifting
writing ish you wish you could
getting paid to talk to kids from
london to englewood

rockin stages with my sheroes
they say they like my style
words are so deep
you ain’t heard ‘em in a while

some call me eight mile
but i ain’t eminem
more yehuda amichai and einstein
mixed with howard zinn

 

(from L to R) my mans Pages, CJ, and me at Brave New Voices in Philly this past weekend.

David vs. Goliath Poetry Slam Sunday July 6th

As a fundraiser for both the adult and youth slam teams representing DC, we are having the Beltway Poetry Slam Team compete against the DC Youth Slam Team. It all goes down this Sunday, July 6th at Penn Social, 801 E Street, NW, Washington, DC. Come witness the amazing talent of DC’s national slam teams. You can purchase tickets here.

David Vs Goliath 2014

DJing dead prez show tonight

this is going to be major. i’m hyped to meet and rock with some revolutionary hip-hop icons tonight. all part of 5 days for the Cuban 5.

deadprezforthecuban5

deadprezforthecuban5.bpt.me for tix

 

The International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5 presents the DC launch party for “BATTLE CRY FOR CUBA AND ZIMBABWE,” a project of M1 and Obi Egbuna Jr.

Dead Prez
Live Concert in DC

Backed up by DC’s own “DJ PhenomeJon” will also be several impressive local progressive performers representing a variety of music genres. As well as several impressive local progressive performers representing a variety of music genres:

Mikaeli and Gigi
Khadijah (Akabella Live)
Denyse Pearson
The Pinnaka
Precise Science
Joose Justis
Reggae artist, Angela Benjamin
Myia X and Natural Bliss
Bomani Armah
Janelle Gill

$20 advance, $25 door, cash only.

Tickets are also available for purchase in person at:

Institute for Policy Studies
1112 16th Street NW, Suite 600
Washington DC 20036

Sankofa Video, Books & Cafe
2714 Georgia Ave NW
Washington, DC 20001

Co-sponsors: Organization of Graduate Sociologists-HU Chapter, Students Against Mass Incarceration (SAMI), DC Metro Coalition to Free the Cuban 5, Institute for Policy Studies, Art Under Pressure, WPFW 89.3 FM, WE ACT Radio 1480 AM

Video

Making Movies

i’m having fun filming and editing video.

check out this new piece promoting the Louder Than a Bomb DMV Teen Poetry Slam Festival.

South Africa

so i just finished writing a grant to hopefully bring a bunch of poets from South Africa to Washington, DC next year. i had 4 grants due this week for work, plus one of my own as an individual. all of that while i was also running the largest youth poetry slam festival (and probably the only one) in the DMV area. it’s been stressful and hectic, but i feel like i accomplished a great deal of important things this week.

here are some of the kick-ass poets i’m trying to bring to DC. cross your fingers, say a prayer, and send good vibes to the DC Commission on Arts and Humanities so that they will approve my request.

Bianca Flex Ishmael

Simpi Vangi-Gantsho-1

afurakan

Shout Out to the Youth Empowerment Summit!

today is going to be awesome. I get to meet a hundred or so high school students from various schools around York, PA at Martin Library’s 8th Annual Youth Empowerment Summit. i’ll be delivering the keynote address, running a couple workshops, and of course performing some poems.

Martin Library YES

hopefully these kids are ready to rock out.

we’ll see.

the Teen Advisory Board here is on point. they set me up with not only one, but two personal assistants/ guides for the day. they’ve already hooked me up with free muffins, waters, and a badass t-shirt with the TAB cat on the back. it’s okay to be jealous.

 

Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness

Here in Washington, DC, the Split This Rock Poetry Festival brings poets and activists from around the world together every other year. March 26 – 30, 2014 we are celebrating the transformative power of the imagination with poetry of provocation and witness. Please join us if you can.

I’m performing Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on the Millennium Stage with #SplitThisRock2014.

Split This Rock Festival 2014

 

We’ve got an amazing lineup of featured poets, many free readings and performances, and late night open mics.

Here’s a video I put together of some of these stellar poets speaking on the importance of Split This Rock. #SplitThisRock2014

 

please do join if you can.

Full Schedule of Festival Events here. 

 

Image

Streetposia Crew in Stockholm, Sweden

Streetposia Crew in Stockholm, Sweden

I’ve been enjoying this week in Sweden with Palestinian activists and poets from around the world, here at #Streetposia. We’re talking oppression, resistance, BDS and academic/cultural boycotts, learning and teaching and performing every day.

On Sunday April 13th JBT in Concert @ 5th & K

come see the Busboys and Poets Open Mic Host Crew in concert

poetry concert flier

 

RSVP online via the Facebook event page.

 

 

Celebrated social justice wordsmith has performed poetry on stages from the Kennedy Center to South Africa

Thomas “Vocab” Hill is one of my students on the DC Youth Slam Team. He is also featured as one of the 2014 Young Futurists on TheRoot.com. If you go to his page and share it on either Facebook or Twitter, you help him win TheRoot.com’s Young Futurist Award. Please read his post, watch his poem in the video below, and share with your friends.

Yes, SHARE THIS LINK with all your networks, NOW.

Thanks for supporting Thomas. He is absolutely wonderful. You can follow him on all social media sites @BlackGayPoet and be sure to check him out at the Split This Rock Poetry Festival in late March in DC.

theroot.com/articles/lists/2014/01/the_2014_young_futurists/thomas_hill.html

that’s the link. please share it with facebook and twitter friends. see Thomas below.

Thomas is one of twelve students who will be performing on Feb. 22nd at the Grand Slam Finals for the 2014 DC Youth Slam Team at Arena Stage in DC. Come see him and the rest of the gang. Tickets on sale now at www.DCyouthSLAM.eventbrite.com

The Blood of Love – Community Poem

at my Busboys and Poets Wednesday night open mic we like to write a community poem involving everyone in the audience. we pass around the paper starting in the beginning of the show and everyone adds a line, so that by the end of the show we have a poem that we wrote together. this is that poem for Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at Busboys and Poets 5th & K Open Mic featuring Janani Balasubramanian (pictured below).

 

COMMUNITY POEM: The Blood of Love

The night is cool, from Philly to DC. So many beautiful

faces I see.

Shrimp and grits are good to Me!

This winter weather, I love it.

Now let’s get loud like a trumpet.

BLARING LOUD, IT FILLS THE ROOM,

Music surrounds me it goes BOOM, BOOM, BOOM,

This pomegranate lemonade is the bomb dot com!

And drinking the DC tap water, you can’t go wrong.

Can’t wait to hear all this uncensored art

That speaks to my very existence on Earth

Ready for this amazing art to ART!

Ready to rip my soul asunder, to fill this hollow shell

I want you to be my girlfriend Talisha, you’re like a love

spell

U gotta start with love between ourselves

So we can love one another

I love this guy’s vest, hat & tie;

Clapping and chewing for sounds and words from the mic

Choking on the voices of our ancestors, lost

Not hearing the call to discover our own

voices and passions silenced by the status quo.

That’s why we must let minority verses flow

My children are my lifeline their mere

existence is pure divine

Now watch us shine!

 

New places it’s time to grow

In with the new, out with the old

This world can be so cruel + cold

Self discovery is better than the Discovery Channel

I found love in my high school/Facebook Friend

A love I wish lasts from now until the end.

 

I’VE FOUND THAT THE BEST BUSINESS OF ALL

BUSINESS IS TO HAVE SOME BUSINESS

OF YOUR OWN N IF YOU DON’T HAVE NO BUSINESS

THEN MAKE IT YOUR BUSINESS TO LEAVE

OTHER PEOPLE’S BUSINESS ALONE

JUST TO BE PEACEFULLY LIVING DRAMA

FREE JUST TO LIVE N LET BE CAUSE

YOUR NOT ME N DON’t WANNA BE Michael Myers

Love

Live Love, Love Life, Bring Life. don’t think

twice.

Sometimes I wish I had taken my mind’s advice instead of my heart,

which can be my biggest vice

Don’t think twice, love, just love

Then stop! Collaborate and listen

Boom shock a loca….Boom

Let the fire of love breathe

Let the beauty of life flow

Not until the winds turn

I will still still continue to love this earth

The voices inside are let loose for a few

People are lined up in a queue

To allow people to really think

Even though it may really stink

All different colors, created unique, death on a

cross for a few to become one. No I’m not talkin

about a son but a lover, take a moment to think

of love a tree, breathe blown out for you & me.

all different colors, created unique.

Griming things for Shining things seems like the violence

never stop, unlocking my mind from calamity to escape

insanity from the pressure of poverty psychologically.

My mind, I’m stuck inside a never ending book. Wishing I

can get to the end, yet I feel one must take their time.

Bathing myself with the blood of love

 

janani

find Janani online at queerdarkenergy.com

their feature performance was soooo on point. hilarious and deep and all sorts of other feels. very good night. ’twas so packed we had to seat people on the stage.

Electric Sunshine

Names? She goes by many
Do not try to label her
She gets out of all your boxes

Smiling at your uneasiness
Inviting you to laugh at yourself
She won’t do it alone, so you go with her
Beautiful five foot something, dark curly hair, 
She can make prison walls show their dimples

Stretching ocean waves flat across the face, a rocky shore
She’ll silence its mighty roar

With eyelids like butterfly wings
 Two flutters and tidal waves wash away nations worlds away
Her stare lowers sea levels around the earth
Boiling beaches without uttering a single word
Phony suckers evaporate in her presence, and
Sunflowers bend backwards following her as she walks by my building
Five foot something, beautiful brown hair
Daughter of hippies
Descendant of hustling immigrants
Mother of creation, she
            Paints
                A future
Outside the lines, confident strokes
She’s not worried about finding a man
As much as a reason
To keep the struggle in her back pocket
We all know what the guys are looking at
No need to spell it out on her bottom
The movement is in her genes,
Attractive activism swings from generation to generation
Marching through her blood like city streets
Up to the steps of her capital buildings
Where everyone can see
Where she gets it from,
Mother taught her how to raise children, not her own
For hours each day, she
Studies
    Herself
A flexible temple, her body
Stretches almost as much as her mind
Both needing to shake it off, sometimes
The daily grind, can be difficult
But she is coffee
Already made, organic, smooth and strong
Do not fear her stubborn stains she only spills on those who don’t know how to hold themselves

Names? She goes by many
Do not try to label her
She gets out of all your boxes

Call her sunshine, her spirit touches you through intermediaries like the moon when she’s not around,
Many have tried, but no man can walk on her
Ground-ed like a lightening rod
She is not easily shocked
    Electric sunshine butterfly woman
Sister transforms awkward to awesome when she enters the room
She turns strangers to family with her loving cocoon 

Weaving a little more of what this world needs into the corners of every social fabric
Wearing love as an old tee shirt

Worry as a prom dress
Life in a necklace
Joy in her earrings
And justice as brass knuckles
She is not an easy woman, not your girly girl
Do not try to label her
She gets out of all your boxes
Running, she
Chases dreams back to where they came from and forces them to grow up
Developing old realities from young fantasies
She stays in the darkroom
Raising children, not her own
Out of the city chemicals 
With increasing contrast
Between their present situation and their past
    Always looking better

    She, is light

All colors together, as one
Running faster than anything or anyone
Across the room
To give you a hug.
Video

new poem – The Living Truth

I read this poem at the Busboys and Poets 5th & K Wednesday night open mic hosted by my man G. Yamazawa. My friend and teacher-of-the-year Clint Smith was the featured artist that night, and none other than Danny Glover read as the spotlight feature. Yes, that’s Danny Glover in the background listening to my poem. He said he liked it. I hope you like it too. I think it still needs some edits, and I definitely need to learn how to perform it better. Let me know what you think.

now hiring pt coordinator

if you know anyone interested
there is now a position open
for a part-time life coordinator

my life is a mess
gray hairs from the stress
schedules and socials
and i must confess

it’s sometimes too much
often a fuss
i need organizing
put can’t pay too much

qualifications
the ideal candidate will be quick with the word
witty and sharp
know a little web design
or be willing to start
oh, and you must be awesome, eager, and chill
and possess much love, respect, and skill

payment is commensurate with hugability
because there’s no bag of money
just hugs and high accountability

interested candidates
please send me your bio

your first task on the job is to sort through
the pile
and pick the best person
which is obviously you

then give me a call
when the process is through

Spoken Word in Stockholm, Sweden

i bet you didn’t even know that Sweden has a poetry scene. i wasn’t really sure before coming here. i had never heard of it and would be lucky if i didn’t mistake Sweden for Norway on a map, let alone know of poets from there. well they have a vibrant arts scene and i got to meet with a couple up-and-coming spoken word artists, a few organizers, and the former Swedish Slam Champion while visiting Stockholm over the weekend.

Here is a video of Amer Sarsour sharing a piece at our meeting

Check him out here.

Amer is one of the best young poets on the Stockholm scene today. I look forward to working with him and the other organizers of STREETPOSIA this coming year to bring together academics, artists, and young people from all over the world.

As we were walking around the next evening, we came upon a interesting boutique with what i think is a very captivating display. So captivating, in fact, that i had to capture it on film to show you lovely people far away from Stockholm, Sweden. Enjoy the rotating headphoned-foamhead on turntable….

There was also at the meeting for STREETPOSIA a few poets from Revolution Poetry, a community arts group here in Stockholm. One of their young poets, 17 year old Yodit, shared this poem with the group.

To the Rabbi who walked out of my performance and anyone else who wishes to question, quell, censor or dismiss me, my poetry, or my views:

The following is a letter I wrote in response to recent complaints about my performance at a synagogue in the DC, Maryland, Virginia area. The Rabbi walked out of my performance and several audience members were upset with my poetry. Many loved it, but my performance caused a bit of a stir and my appropriateness has been questioned. A response was requested, so I wrote the following (edited here to try to keep from calling out individuals and specific temples):

To the Rabbi who walked out of my performance and anyone else who wishes to question, quell, censor or dismiss me, my poetry, or my views:

I am very thankful for the opportunity to perform at the 2012 Festival and understand that my performance was very memorable. In addition to many thanks, hugs, and handshakes I received after the show congratulating me on a great performance both necessary and captivating, I also understand that some audience members were not pleased with my poetry. This is often the case with poetry, as in most art forms, so I am not offended or surprised. In particular, Rabbi S_____ got up and walked out before I even finished my second poem, for reasons I can only assume were negative and due to strong disagreement with my art and not a sudden need to use the bathroom. Reb D___, who invited me to perform, has received strong criticism for this choice, and congregation president, Mr. C____ has described my work as both boring and inappropriate. I hear others had more offensive words for me and my poetry (one person called me a disgrace to my people!) and that many were talking about it. While I appreciate the power of my art to cause a reaction in listeners, I wish all of the fabulous artists who graced the stage would receive attention for their powerful performances. It seems negative opinions are getting more attention than positive ones, so I write you today in response, to once again share my words. It is my hope that you will listen to them in their entirety before judging me.

The main poem in contention is Dear David, a personal exploration of my Jewish identity complicated by the history and actions of the government of Israel, which uses the Star of David as its symbol on the Israeli flag. In this poem I speak directly to this symbol. I don’t believe anyone has a problem with the creative basis of the poem. It seems as though some people disagree with my personal identity problems related to the symbol as a representative of both the state of Israel and the Jewish people. Frankly, they see things differently than I do, and not only don’t appreciate my personal opinion, but feel it has something to do with them and their opinions as well. Let me clear this up: it doesn’t. This poem is about me and my struggle with identifying as Jewish when the rest of the world links Jewishness with the actions of the state of Israel. My criticisms of the state of Israel come out in this poem; it is not hard to discern how I feel about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after hearing the piece. Nowhere in the poem do I advocate for one policy or another. Nowhere in the poem do I say that others should think or act like me. Again, it is my poem, about my life as a Jew. I thought it fit well within the great Jewish tradition of questioning, and that is why it fit perfectly in the Jewish Festival. Jews have been using oral storytelling for centuries. Jews have been questioning and debating for centuries. To me, this poem fits well within that tradition. It is not advocacy for one side or another, nor inappropriate for a young Jewish man to be honest with his people about his identity problems. Would it be inappropriate advocacy if I were advocating in support of the state of Israel? If not, why does the inappropriate advocacy rule only go one way when we as Jews are called to seek justice for all people? This is off topic though, because in that poem I do not advocate a single thing. I simply describe my struggle with Jewish identity through a conversation with the symbol that most represents Jews to the world.

In my first poem, This Rock, and my last poem, Elevators, I definitely advocate for peace, justice, activism, and nonviolent resistance. I also come out strongly against violence and segregation. I was not told that advocating against violence and segregation was not allowed at the Festival, so I performed all of these poems because, to me, they fit within the Jewish theme of tikkun olam. I did not advocate for a political party. I did not say anything blasphemous or question the existence of the state of Israel. If I made some people uncomfortable with my poetry, that is a good thing. I welcome conversation and discussion about it. From Mr. C____’s introduction to last year’s forum at [your synagogue] on Palestine’s admission to the UN, I can see that he, and the board of [your synagogue] is in agreement with me about the need to sometimes engage in dialogue that is uncomfortable. I stayed after the show, talked with everyone who approached me, and provided my contact information. I did not hear from Mr. C____ nor Rabbi S_____. In fact, only two people who were uncomfortable with my performance spoke with me: one was a very rude gentleman who called me a disgrace an left quickly, the other a very polite woman whom I spoke with at length about the meaning behind my poem and how I want to be as proud of my Magen David as she is of hers, but that I find it very difficult given the extreme oppression of the Palestinian people. Everyone else had nice things to say.

To conclude I will address what I feel are the two main underlying problems here. Mr. C____, and by extension the board of [your synagogue] state that “The belief in Israel as a Jewish homeland and a democratic, religiously pluralistic state, and the support for a secure and peaceful Israel is a good basis for working together and respecting one another.  None of us believes in expulsion or apartheid.” I LOVE THIS STATEMENT! I love it so much and want it to be reality so much that I will not delude myself nor others with rose-colored glasses when it comes to Israel and Palestine, and especially when it comes to our lives and actions as American Jews living in the U.S. tacitly supporting the occupation of Palestine. It is clear to me that my views on Palestine and Israel are not welcome at [your synagogue] and by extension, it seems, in the Jewish community generally. I will spare you a full listing of my beliefs, suffice it to say that peace cannot come without justice, and I support the oppressed in their struggle for freedom and justice. We were once an oppressed people. Notice the past tense.

The fact that I cannot advocate for the human rights of Palestinians while among my people is a tremendous problem (need I quote Martin Niemoller here? “When they came for the … I did not speak up…” etc.). The fact that Jewishness is somehow tied to political support for a government is a tremendous problem. The fact that you are more concerned with my poetry than with ending the killing and suffering of innocent people is a tremendous problem. Our blind support of an oppressive government using illegal and violent tactics in an occupation without end is a tremendous problem. I can talk poetry and appropriateness all day; Neither will bring back the dead children. It is easy to look away and justify from our comfy positions in our wealthy neighborhoods. It is easy, but it is not the Jewish thing to do. Defending a piece of land rather than a fellow human is not the Jewish thing to do. I chose and choose to do the Jewish thing, speaking and standing for justice for all people, not just some people. I believe Israel should exist and it should be democratic and pluralistic. It is not. If it is a home for one religious group of people, then it is a theocracy. The discrimination against Arabs and Palestinians is not democratic and does not help to create a secure and peaceful place for anybody. It is state sponsored segregation and state terrorism via the occupation. It is collective punishment illegal under international law. Of all people, Jews should know the grave problem with such a policy and should be the first to prevent it from happening anywhere. For time’s sake and because you probably already know about them, I will not include the extremely bigoted and genocidal things that leaders in the state of Israel and the IDF continue to say about the Palestinians and others. To paraphrase a line from my poem: it makes me sick.

The second underlying problem is fear. Are those complaining about my poem afraid that I might convince somebody of something I hold true? Afraid that a Jew supporting Palestinian rights will destroy Judaism? Are we afraid of Arabs and Muslims?!?!? What is it that we are afraid of hearing at next year’s festival if I am invited back? Or is it our own consciences that we fear? Scared that the veils of victimhood and self defense will erode if we allow ourselves to take in other viewpoints? Are we afraid of Jews who think differently?

“In the world in which we live, Jews cannot afford to split into opposing camps,” says Mr. C____. I strongly disagree. We have always been in many different camps, and we can’t always avoid opposition. There is always opposition, but the Jewish people have done a great job of silencing it here at home. That is why I was nervous to perform my poem. That is why you want to silence me and those who think like me by creating some policy banning “inappropriate advocacy” and other opinions you dislike. Opposition is something we can afford and something we need more of, unless we want to be a monolithic cult obeying whatever some foreign state says is right. Please, I beg you, I implore you, do not fear opposition and do not silence it in your house of worship. “Questioning the existence and legitimacy of the State of Israel is outside the pale” does not sound Jewish to me. The Jewish folk tradition that I know puts nothing outside the pale. The reason I trust my Rabbi so much is because I know I can always talk to him about anything. He instilled in me a faith in my people to never push me away, no matter what I think, say, or do. He taught me that it is better to ask the difficult questions than to repeat the easy answers. This applies not only to questions of God and faith and religion, but to EVERYTHING. If we cannot question the existence of the state of Israel, how on earth can we question the existence of God? Or is that not allowed at [your synagogue] either?

Are we teaching our youth how to believe or what to believe? How to think and question, or what to think and question?

Thank you for hearing me out. It is very unfortunate that my words may have caused problems at your synagogue. I am only being me, as honestly and bravely as I can possibly be. I am fortunate to come from a long line of Jewish leaders like Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, Albert Einstein, Amy Goodman, Phyllis Bennis, and Rabbi Arthur Waskow, who stand, speak, and live their Jewish values even when (especially when) they are unpopular, unwanted, inappropriate or dangerous. I pray that you will join us in standing for justice for all people.

Sincerely,

Jonathan B. Tucker
poet

i’m curious what y’all think about thi

i’m curious what y’all think about this film, and the poetry and ideas in it. http://ow.ly/fbvFx

the Pres candidate i’m voting for just

the Pres candidate i’m voting for just got arrested in TX. Go Dr. JILL STEIN! Leading by example. http://ow.ly/eVbip