Vibrant verbs at Spoken Word Open Mic

No microphone was necessary for most at the Open Mic on Saturday night. In the already intimate space of the Point Bank Black Box Theatre, draped with floor-length curtains, the small audience was enclosed into the web of words woven by the spoken word artists. The hostess, wearing a matching head scarf and tunic in Jamaican zebra print, set the stage and kept our palms warm in between acts with her own performance art.  Verb Kulture’s rapid-fire rhymes and verbs reverberated, their hefty meaning lingering in the briefest silence and echoing long past the event. Verb opened with a jab on smart phones becoming more intelligent than their users. When wiggling humans are caught in the snare of the internet, our culture (or would that be kulture?) suffers.

Verb Kulture at Denton Black Film Festival's Spoken Word. Image from Denton Black Film Festival Facebook. Verb Kulture at Denton Black Film Festival's Spoken Word. Image from Denton Black Film Festival Facebook.

“Laughter sounds like ROTFL, in all caps. Sadness sounds like silence, with symbol attached.”

The dim lights of cell screens, illuminating predominantly young black faces, flickered in every intermission. Under the bright glare of stage, several spoken artists read their pieces by scrolling down their smart phone. The irony of the opening message may have been lost, but as with many of the topics on societal change, hopefully the meaning will sink in over time.

Verb spoke on ebonics:

“They call it slang. Slain our language and left us with nothing.”

 The first brave black man to step up to the open mic was Donovan Bogney, a senior in high school at Allen, Texas, who touched on the social injustice many would address that night.

“It’s the games of ladders and chutes, except they shoot when you peak the ladder.”

Christine Irving, the only white hair to grace the stage, closed her poem of grief:

“Black is the only color that comforts.”

 Mercedes ripped apart police injustice:

“How much does freedom cost? ‘Cause all I really want is to take these chains off.”

Daniel, glowing from his bright yellow Denton Black Film Festival shirt and phone screen, read:

“Freedom tastes like my grandma’s sweet potato pie.”

It was not an original piece, but his artistry was applauded:

“If my work was good, y’all would recognize my personhood.”

 Musical interludes by DJ Sir J ranged from gospel remixes and Lauryn Hill to get heads bopping, to recordings of spoken word on Jesus and mindfulness. How many, artists and audience included, also needed to get a divorce from their second spouse, their cell phone?

Daniel returned for an original piece. He warned that he was not a poet, and yesterday was the first time he had done a reading, but his “rant” was pure performance art. He switched between Nigerian and American accents for different perspectives on the Star-Spangled Banner:

“I don’t feel free, yet. You’re not brave, enough.”

Verb Kulture closed the night with an invitation to her hometown Chicago ghetto:

“Obtuse triangle of three sides: suicide, homicide, genocide.”

“Media overlooks this violence, and we fade to black, black on black.”

In the Black Box Theatre, the voices of the black artists were vibrant, crisply colored, alive.