Date: December 20th , 2020
Location: Above Art Studio New Brunswick, NJ
As Told by JimmySoDope
Newark, NJ has a historic relationship with poetry. After all, our mayor is a poet himself and the son of critically acclaimed author & poet Amiri Baraka. When I heard that the Brick City battle rapper/entrepreneur Tsu Surf was hosting the “SPOKEN WORD” event presented by his Raw Bunch record label & the non for profit Detox The Hood, I wasn’t shocked whatsoever. I was even more excited when I got wind of the secret location, the world famous Above Art Studios in New Brunswick.
A statement that Surf said his first time on stage pretty much set the tone for this article and the evening as a whole, “You can lie in rap, but you can’t lie in poetry.” Every poet mirrored this truth with superhuman displays of honesty and vulnerability. I caught up with Tsu Surf’s manager and the event’s coordinator Qua to ask him how they arrived at the decision to enter the battle rapper into the spoken word space. He replied, “I love Surf. I work with Surf, manage Surf but this isn’t about him. It’s about the other poets. I’m using Surf as a platform to shed light on the people. I’m setting the stage for these poets and then with the proceeds we are helping out the less fortunate.”
I inquired about Ashley The Poet’s creative process and she shared with me, “I cry when I write. That’s how I get my poems to be the way I need them to be. I write so I can change somebody in the crowd. I need somebody in the crowd to feel me. I get in tuned to the exact feeling I had the moment I went through what ever in writing about.” When I asked if she’s still healing from her experiences that have been catalysts for her art, she replied, “The healing process never ends!”
The socially distant event delivered on every level. The paintings on the walls and easels of the Above Art Studios space were top notch as they are notoriously known for. The complimentary Pinot Grigio didn’t disappoint. The poets really performed from a place of love, gratitude and vulnerability. On stage they were full of audacity and wisdom, off stage they were dropping jewels as well. JaNai Aka Ki’Nu said “Everything I do is to support our people. I feel like the Black Man does not get enough recognition and praise so when I get on a stage that’s the first thing I address.” When I asked Poetree about her performance approach she told me, “I speak from experience. From who I am. I could get on stage and just start spitting but speaking to the audience allows me to FEEL first.”
XVIIDUKE said, “It feels good to be free. When you’re free you are real.” I asked him what was his underlying message he wanted to get across with his poems, he responded, “Question everything and remain in love because we are love!” And love was the energy that everyone felt! The audience was thoroughly engaged. They laughed, clapped and snapped their fingers when poets pulled on their heart strings.
A conversation with the author of “Tripping Over Canvases” and co-owner of Above Art Studios, Donte T Muse had a different tone. We spoke of how they were able to keep the art gallery thriving while so many businesses crumbled during the economic downfall caused by the pandemic. He explained how entrepreneurs could have taken preemptive measures to make their businesses recession proof! Donte did however have a message for those of us who are now learning that entrepreneurship and group economics are not trends but an absolute necessities if we are to rise as a community. “Love what you do. Pursue your talents and passions. Your passions are directly tied to your purpose. If you follow those things, everybody wins because you’re a piece of the puzzle.”
Qua confirmed SPOKEN WORD was initially scheduled for the 1st quarter of 2020. Obviously Covid-19 had other plans. All in all, I couldn’t think of more powerful and purposeful way to end the year. Before the night was over, Surf assured that SPOKEN WORD is indeed a series and for the next event we can expect him step aside as the host and step in as a featured act. Stay tuned….