Monday, August 24, 2009

The MoSoul Poetry Festival

When Josephus Thompson III invited me to be part of the MoSoul Poetry Festival in Greensboro this year, I didn't quite know what to expect. Having now experienced it, I am totally blown away by the talent and abilities of those involved as artists and as organizers. When I came to Greensboro in March while on tour, Josephus was my first introduction to serious spoken poetry, and I can easily say that he is not the only one with mad skills in wordplay.
At the risk of making this a long post and expanding on the excellent post by Reason2Rhyme's blog, let me detail the talent represented by this month's (the final of the year's series) poetry festival. Keep in mind that many of the things I say about a single artist are true of every other artist - what I say here are simply what strike me from our first interactions. This post is too long to embed videos, but definitely check each of these artists out on their own websites, go see them live, and check out my YouTube page for performances from the festival weekend.
Here they are in the order that we performed:
Josephus Thompson III - one of Greensboro's premier spoken word artist's, he has been in the thick of the arts scene in this city for most of the last 8 years. He has started or is involved in numerous organizations to foster the arts and most notably to encourage young people in schools to express themselves in new and constructive ways. Along with T.I.G. and a core group of volunteers, Reasons2Rhyme was formed to continue this vision and bring poetry to Greensboro and elsewhere.
Keith Rodgers - a man of many talents who hails from Tallahassee, FL, where he formed Black-on-Black Rhyme, a network of many spoken word artists that has chapters in various cities around Florida. Keith is incredibly business-savvy (he carries a point-of-sale credit card machine with him on his belt), has a way with words both on stage and in everyday conversation, and can really work a crowd.
Hiram Ring - the one writing this post. Need I say more?
Ebony - part of Keith's Black-on-Black network, she is a serious poet dealing with social issues. Ebony is also the co-founder and marketing director of, a social network for poets allows them to sell product as well as connect with other artists.
The One Sun Lion Ra - a musician and rapper as well as a poet, Ra went to school in Greensboro but now lives in New York city. His rhymes run the gamut of rhythmic and inspiring to contemplative. He is a committed family man and speaks from a depth of experience.
Will McInerney - a Chapel Hill, NC native with a political/social bent, Will's poetry often deals with what it means to be human. He is not afraid to tackle and speak his mind on issues such as land rights and political conflict of the past, present, and future. He's a member of Sacrificial Poets and took part in the Brave New Voices poetry competition recently documented on an HBO miniseries.
Justice - Antwidamala Justice Umbiya translates directly to, “He who greets with fire” and “Just and righteous champion of the people”. It's a fitting title for one whose poetry speaks so passionately about individual struggles from a personal perspective. Justice's life is a story of determined struggle, and he recently left his high-paying job at GM to continue pursuing his passion - sharing his stories with others.
Evin Gibson - an award-winning singer, songwriter and producer, Evin is tons of fun in person and on stage. He has traveled the world with his music and resides in Greensboro. Usually backed by dancers and musicians, this guy is an excellent singer and manages to pull off his songs a-capella as well.
Isaiah 11:11 - a teacher in Newark, NJ, Isaiah also pursues his musical passion as a hip-hop and reggae artist and started getting into spoken word poetry around the same time that he first met Josephus at a rap show. Originally from Liberia, Isaiah's words deal with social inequities and racial issues, and his knowledge of history and world politics deepens his expression.
Moe - another Floridian, native of Jacksonville, Moe's rhyme is pokes fun at himself and the world around him while capturing his audience with its depth and wordplay. His phrasing and expression is smooth yet complex. A favorite in his hometown, he regularly sells out shows at Jacksonville's biggest venue.
Andrew Tyree - another killer poet from Greensboro, Andrew has won numerous awards for his work. Most recently he was the 2009 Charlotte Grand Slam Champion. He deals with personal issues, relationships and nearly everything else, making his listeners think about life in new ways.
As I said, the weekend has completely expanded my horizons and makes me want to encourage spoken word events all over the US - hopefully this festival simply continues to grow. To find out what you can do to help the cause, visit the Reasons2Rhyme blog and become friends with them on Facebook and elsewhere. Lets spread the word and encourage people to write.


Kristen said...

Thanks for writing this post and the link back. Do you mind if I link back on our main page? Also, I'm about to start a project to get reflections back from all the poets that have been in events over the past year, I'd love to pass this on as an example(although I won't make them write blog posts;) )

Hiram said...

go for it! most definitely. let me know if I can help out in any other way.