It's Beatfreeks Barbados' first birthday and the one thing that stays with me, is how much of a family we've become. As a budding spoken word artist who had not yet found her footing, I wasn't sure what to expect at the first BCC Poetry Lime.
Admittedly, I was convinced that everyone else there had something extremely important to say and this impossibly creative way of saying it and I was just a newbie. A microphone had never been so intimidating before. I put my name on the sign-up sheet, and sat in a dark space trying to hide so I wouldn't be called on to go first. Luci was saying something about it being a safe space, free of judgement.
I promise I wanted to believe her, but the nerves didn't do much to help. Well that, and the fact that my plan to hide from hitting the stage first did not work at all. Shaking like a leaf, palms sweating, I took the stage and did my piece.
I got silence. Absolute silence.
It did nothing for my confidence whatsoever. There was the applause after the performance from Luci's sympathising that it took guts to get up onstage and go first, but I had already made up in my mind that no one got what I was saying.
It was only later in the night I realised that wasn't the case. We have little intermissions where we get to mingle and meet new people, and people I didn't know came to me and said my piece was profound. Silence almost never meant that the piece wasn't liked, but that it was thought-provoking.
As the months progressed I began to feel more and more at home. Poetry Lime was something I looked forward to, a much needed place to relax and open my mind to what everyone had to say. We became a family. One voice telling a hundred different stories.
We dared to do more.
We dared to speak on the more controversial topics. Challenges of living as queer identifying females, body shaming, learning to love yourself, facing depression, love and heartbreak, and racism and other stereotypes. Our stories became so much more personal. We were square pegs trying to fit in a round world, finally finding space to just be ourselves - the raw, uncut and unapologetic versions of ourselves.
We became a family unafraid of accepting who we really were as individuals. We gave each other honest feedback, and baby-stepped one another out of our respective shells and into a world that appreciated artistic expression and welcomed effort. With each month I saw new faces, and I don't just mean in the audience. Lamar, Faith, Javona and Jovona tried their hands at emceeing and gave Luci a break. The stage saw a new performer or two nearly every month as well. Some of us used to depend on our phones and notebooks, but as we grew bolder, people tried performing without them.
Of course, I can’t forget to mention the machine behind the group. The youth directors. It’s all well and good to talk about what happened, but it would be remiss of me not to mention the dedication that went into making the Poetry Limes happen.
In retrospect, the first few times I went to Poetry Lime, I took the space for granted. By the time I got there, the stage, the seating, the lighting, and the sound were already up and running and all I had to do was write my name. Shame on me.
That was until after I joined the youth director family. On one occasion we were asked to get there about an hour earlier, and I thought to myself:
“How much work could it possibly be?”
I pretty much had to eat my words – there was figuring out how to position the chairs and cushions; changing the filters on the lights to different colours, moving stuff, making sure the decorations stayed – which, oddly enough, was the hardest part – and setting the tone of the evening with music.
Instead of signing up to perform straight away, I sat a while and just observed. When other people started arriving, I watched my colleagues hustling around encouraging budding artists to step into the spotlight. When we shared ideas in the group chat, it was as safe a space as Poetry Lime. I marvelled at their enthusiasm and eagerness, and it was infectious.
You know how they say that sometimes you can only appreciate something by being a part of it. This was exactly like that. The precision, the organisation, the volunteerism, the spiritedness. It was absolutely laudable. It was, is, and continues to be something I can’t help but want to be a part of.
Beatfreeks Barbados has become all about exploring out of our comfort zones. The way we grow and move forward.
I can't wait to see when we, the 'underground' artists, surface and show Barbados what we're made of.
Happy birthday first BFB family!