The Secret No One Has Heard But Everyone Will Hear Of
Tip: When attending be sure to have a bag of ice on standby, a bottle of cold water, a fan; better, buy a cold soft-drink.
(For people who can’t handle heat very well because even though summer was halfway through #Poetrylime July edition was LIT.)
The backdrop was black. The lighting an ethereal dim glow cast centre stage. The violet haze of twilight mingled amongst the early-dwellers as early-nineties rhythm and blues floated in waves. Goosebumps prickled my skin, not simply because I was attired in an off-the-shoulder blouse. The sensation arose subtly, as I became aware; I was surrounded by a group of socially-conscious and mentally active people. I quickly settled into the welcoming atmosphere (there were cookies. Everyone loves cookies) of BCC’s Morning Side theatre.
The Beatfreeks collective was present, though June’s host and main organizer Luci Hammans did not host tonight. We were back to our regularly-scheduled host; Lamar Coward took the stage with an opening performance. His was an easy familiarity that led us through the night with jokes, innuendos and dry humour. Poet Keoma performed eloquently after him.
As the night finally filtered through to match the heavy black drapery, I became astounded.
It was as though a collective consciousness had permeated these poets’ minds.
How could I know we would all come prepared to voice our opinions on #Blacklivesmatter? Of course it made sense; the recent police brutality that dominated social media would be highlighted.
Beatfreeks member and a regular at Poetry Lime, poet Faith-Amber Johnson created the first shift. All eyes were transfixed to her as she performed, only the sound of her voice echoing through the microphone. Her piece was blatant and honest as she spoke on the reality of what it meant to be a person of colour. Using metaphor and comparison the audience was deceptively drawn in to her piece entitled “3 Inks”. Speaking on a similar theme were poets Ariel, Stephanie Zerpa and Ariel’s friend, a first-time performer who expressed the realities of growing up in a racially-ambiguous home and different aspects of colourism.
Continuing the Black consciousness vibe was Cyndi-she left the stage ablaze and several audience members “deceased” with her piece on natural hair entitled “Coils”. I was completely enraptured by her performance as she dropped metaphors, irony and run-on-lines I was rather proud of myself for keeping up with. It was after her performance that I motivated myself to perform, along with my friend Tatéanna’s. She left the stage reminding people that she does not need their advice about her kinky coils. (Flips hair).
There was such a heavy dynamic in the air that it provoked a first-time performer to confess that the piece she had prepared did not fit the theme of the night. However there was no set theme and this poet delivered a subtly eloquent piece entitled ‘Pearl White Dress’, contemplation on the loss of innocence. Another first time poet, Tamina (who is white) spoke about racism and how she was confronted one day at the beach by a man who insisted that ‘yes he was black’ after she got out of the water at the beach, ‘for no particular reason’. The poem was impacful because it was clear that this negative stereotype about black people was so strongly perpetuated, that such became the man’s first impression-that she left the water assuming he was a thief.
Offering some comic relief from the heat emanating off the small stage was poet Matthew- who assisted with set-up behind the scenes and worked at BCC. His piece was entitled “Welcome to the friend-zone” and if you were formerly unacquainted with the term, Matthew made the audience uncomfortably familiar; but only because it hit so close to home. His opening question was:
“Who in here is familiar with that zone known as the friend-zone?”
I think I might have raised my hand a bit too fast.
There were celebrities in our midst as well, and I gave myself a quick pat on the back for not ‘fangirling’ over the “B4kxngz” members. They performed individually, each with their own personal style. I unfortunately missed the opening of the piece “Forbidden fruit” but was able to enjoy the other members’ freestyles and views on black consciousness. Their poetry was blatant and honest-performed without the assistance of digital devices; although there was some encouraging finger-snapping by the audience when a performer tried to remember a line.
There were other celebrities as well, such as reggae-on-the-hill performer Triple X and his wife Katharine Tafari. We were also graced with the presence of the NIFCA gold-awarded Matthew Murrell. Tonight was his first time performing in seven years and it was arguably the most impactful performance of the night.
Shivers grazed my arms as he gave his opening words against the black backdrop; the audience’s eyes were glued to the character he became. Matthew was angry, bold and honest as he embodied and personified in absolution the negative stereotypes white people have subjected onto black men. He asked the audience if he was supposed to be ‘dirty’ ‘violent’ ‘angry’ a ‘thief’-the authenticity and emotions of his performance was what gave it its edge; so much so that I was afraid some people were deeply cut.
However, wounds heal; and Matthew affirmed this when at the end of his performance he put his glasses back on and humbly left the stage. It was safe to say he left most people in awe. During the third intermission (or was the it the fourth? I could never keep track) my friends and I (Jovona instigated this) were eager to catch up with him to express our amazement and to inquire about whether he offered lessons. (Hopefully we could get a group discount)
I was convinced there was too much talent for such a small, intimate venue; surely more people should be there (though we had a decent crowd).
Not only was the audience showered with mind-blowing performances, but invaluable advice.
I was surprised to later learn of the media’s presence. (That explains the big fancy cameras)
After my friend Tatéanna’s performance, where she spoke about the ‘fake truths’ and lies we are often force-fed, Triple X encouraged us to ‘own’ our performances-memorise them and to be confident on stage. I whole-heartedly agreed. His performance was loud and electrifying. He called out members of the crowd with a mixture of song and spoken word.
I performed right after my friend Tatéanna’s. I had one piece memorised for the night and one I had written that evening. I went with the latter as it seemed to fit the night thematically. I was a lot more confident than the last time, probably because I had performed before. It was a piece mainly about me coming to the realisation that the world we live in was not the world projected by the media.
The night was over way too soon - I was very hesitant to go (but my friend was giving me a ride home). Several people lingered as they cleared the set after, buying the remaining cakes and cookies (there weren’t many left). I for one wasn’t hungry having been served enough food for thought and advice to keep me full until the next #poetrylime which should be held August 27th.
While the rest of Barbados was most likely enjoying the hype of the crop-over season, I felt like I had found some small, intimate secret at Poetry Lime BCC. On one hand, I want the event to prosper and grow so other Barbadians can enjoy and acknowledge the amazing talent many insist we as youths do not possess; (okay fine, so technically we were still ‘liming’ on the block) on the other hand experience has taught me that secrets such as these do not stay secret for too long.
As selfish as it may seem, I intend to enjoy the night’s ‘underground’ vibe for as long as I can; right now it’s my secret, and I’m not too sure that I want to share.