come see the Busboys and Poets Open Mic Host Crew in concert
RSVP online via the Facebook event page.
come see the Busboys and Poets Open Mic Host Crew in concert
RSVP online via the Facebook event page.
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.
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
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).
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
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
Live Love, Love Life, Bring Life. don’t think
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
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.
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
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
She, is light
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.
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
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
please send me your bio
your first task on the job is to sort through
and pick the best person
which is obviously you
then give me a call
when the process is through
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.
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.
Jonathan B. Tucker
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 got arrested in TX. Go Dr. JILL STEIN! Leading by example. http://ow.ly/eVbip
peace my friends! apologies for being so absent. no excuses, just apologies.
today i’m just here briefly to let you know there is about one more week to submit to the split this rock poetry contest. deadline is nov. 1st and it’s open to everybody.
submit your poems here.
that is, if you believe, as we at split this rock do, in
the many ways that poetry can act as an agent for change: reaching across differences, considering personal and social responsibility, asserting the centrality of the right to free speech, bearing witness to the diversity and complexity of human experience through language, imagining a better world.
Our country faces a crisis of imagination. We need dramatic change: to end the wars, reorder our national priorities to meet human needs, save our planet. How we address these challenges is a question not just for policy makers and strategists. It is a question for all of us. We believe poets have a unique role to play in social movements—as innovators, visionaries, truth tellers, and restorers of language.
peace fam, please buy tix and donate to support Community Water Solutions. i’m performing Sunday at the concert. http://ow.ly/dEPrM
i may have ended my boycott and got a twitter account. this is what the world has come to.
the journey to Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival in Berkeley, California with 11 talented teenage poets representing DC.
the first-ever Louder Than A Bomb – DMV Teen Poetry Slam Festival here in DC with 12 school slam teams coming together in an awesome day of fellowship and spoken word.
the National Poetry Slam in Charlotte, North Carolina.
the many cyphers and open mics and slams and shows and stories.
the late nights and long weekends.
the road trips and shows.
the dance parties and beautiful creations.
the break dancers from Brazil visiting us through the U.S. State Dept. and writing poetry with the DC Youth Slam Team.
the cook outs, BBQ’s, potlucks, brunches, and dinners.
the new friends. the old friends come back again. the unexpected meetings and coincidences.
the couches. the crashing. the heat and the sun.
it’s been an amazing summer of 2012.
september promises to keep the amazing coming.
Saturday, Feb. 25th at 8pm at Busboys and Poets 5th & K. RSVP online at http://www.facebook.com/events/136150153168073/