"You can read this.
What if you couldn’t?
How would your life be different?"
These words, from the Reading Works website, are more than a rhetorical question. For the nearly 50 percent of Detroiters who are unable to read, they are questions that delve into a harsh reality. That's why on Sunday, January 15, some of metro Detroit's most prominent poets and musicians are banding together to bring awareness to raise support for literacy programming.
Developed in the spirit of social justice and community service that has come to characterize Dr. King's birthday celebration, Free Verse: Poetry + Music Celebrating Life + Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. will be held at the Virgil H. Carr Center on Sunday, January 15, 2012 from 3:30 until 5:30 PM. It is a free event but everyone who attends is asked to bring a new/or gently used poetry book, a monetary donation or volunteer time to support the important work that Reading Works does to increase the Detroit area's literacy rate.
The amazing line-up includes: Detroit's Poet Laureate Naomi Long Madgett, Poet, Publisher and Founder of Black Women Rock jessica Care moore, Writer, Activist and Poet Khary Kimani Turner, Musician Audrey Mabins, Rapper/Poet Mahagony Jones, Slam Poet Jeff Nelson, and Singer/Songwriter Tim Clark. Hosted by Rhonda Welsh, the event will feature sounds by EchoVerse.
DR. NAOMI LONG MADGETT
Naomi Long Madgett, Ph.D., Poet Laureate of the City of Detroit, is the author of ten books of poetry and two textbooks and editor of two anthologies. She is also the author of an autobiography, Pilgrim Journey. Her poems appear in numerous journals and more than 190 anthologies both here and abroad. Several have been set to music and publicly performed. Her career as a published poet spans more than sixty years, her first small collection appearing when she was only seventeen years old.
She is founder and publisher /editor of Lotus Press, Inc., and professor of English emeritus at Eastern Michigan University.
Among her many honors are an American Book Award, induction into three halls of fame, four honorary degrees, and several lifetime achievement awards. She has recorded some of her poems at the Library of Congress. At the request of his wife, she wrote the poem for the 1975 inauguration of Governor William Milliken and read it at the ceremony. Her poem celebrating the tri-centennial of Detroit was sealed in a time capsule December 31, 2001 to be opened in 100 years.
In 1993 the national Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award was established to recognize and publish an outstanding manuscript by an African American poet.
On June 4, 2005, a life-size sculpture of Dr. Madgett, commissioned by the Board of Directors of Lotus Press and created by Artis Lane, was unveiled and is now a part of the permanent collection at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, the largest facility of its kind in the world.
Two documentary films about her life and work have been produced and aired on public television and elsewhere. The first is "A Poet's Voice" (Vander Films) based on OCTAVIA AND OTHER POEMS and most recently, "StarbyStar: Naomi Long Madgett, Poet & Publisher" filmed by David Schock. The most accurate account of her life and work can be found in her autobiography, Pilgrim Journey andContemporary Authors Autobiography Series, Volume 23 (Gale Research). Some of her papers are in the Fisk University Special Collections Library, and the more complete Naomi Long Madgett/ Lotus Press Papers are on deposit at the University of Michigan Special Collections Library in Ann Arbor.
JESSICA CARE MOORE
PHOTO CREDIT: MOSES MITCHELL
jessica Care moore is a internationally renowned poet, playwright, actor, activist, producer and CEO of Moore Black Press and founder of Black Women Rock! She is the author of The Words Don't Fit in My Mouth, The Alphabet Verses, The Ghetto, God is Not an American, and a forthcoming book of essays, Literary Apartheid. She has performed her poems and solo theater shows all over the United States, in South Africa, and across Europe. From her Broadway performances at Carnegie Hall, or Harlem's Apollo Theater, London's Institute of Contemporary Arts, to New York's Jazz at Lincoln Center, moore believes poems belong everywhere and to everyone.
Her new show, The Missing Project: Pieces of the D is an international storytelling live art music show that features an experimental jazz orchestra and the work of graffiti artist Antonio "Shades" Agee. Her debut rock album, Black Tea will be out when it's finished! moore continues to push the boundaries of genre, with her first conceptual art installation, NANOC: I Sing The Body Electric, which opened at Dell Pryor Gallery in 2011. She lives in Detroit, where she is completing her screenplay, and a memoir, Love is Not the Enemy, while raising the 5-year old love of her life, King Thomas James Moore.
KHARY KIMANI TURNER
Khary Kimani Turner, co-author of Surrendered: The Rise, Fall & Revelation of Kwame Kilpatrick, has a body of work that spans media, music, the arts and education. A longtime Detroit-based writer, he is passionate about telling the stories of compelling American lives. As an artist, his passion for poetry, songwriting and performance is boundless and documented.
Since beginning his writing career with The Source magazine in 1994, Khary has contributed to more than 20 national and regional publications over a 17-year span. Many Detroiters recognize him for his work with Metro Times between 2003 and 2010. He’s also been recognized as an expert on pop culture and social issues, appearing on FOX News, the NBC show “Flashpoint,” VH1’s “Ultimate Albums,” Fuse TV and Quincy Jones III’s “Beef” series. His writing influenced some of hip-hop’s biggest luminaries.
Khary is an educator who taught urban studies, poetry and hip-hop at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, in 2006, and has delivered lectures and keynote addresses at several other universities, commencements, community organizations and churches. He also served as an Artist-in-Residence at Washtenaw Community College in 2007. And he and his wife Tunesia (also an actress and vocalist), have facilitated workshops on healthy relationships, using their 13-year partnership as a backdrop for healthy discourse.
Music and performance are woven throughout Khary’s literary and educational endeavors. Aside from bringing his spoken word talents to keynote addresses, he recorded two award-winning albums with his band, Black Bottom Collective, and shared stages with artists ranging from Stevie Wonder to Common. His self-published book, Outta You: Early Selfloveactivism, helped to usher in a wave of burgeoning Detroit writers and poets during the 1990s and influenced the resurgence of the city’s artistic community. He went on to compete with Detroit’s National Poetry Slam Team in 1999, and remains a coach and mentor to up-and-coming bards. The Detroit Public Library recognized Khary’s contribution to Detroit’s creative community, tapping him to coach and develop a group of young writers in 2010.
Khary is currently recording and preparing to write his next book. He lives and works in the Detroit area.
Tim Clark has been performing professionally since the 1990s. In that time, this multi-talented musician has developed an unique, eclectic style that burns deep in the soul of all who witness his art.
As the co-founder & manager of the indy band JPT; Tim spearheaded the band's original sound which he coined, "Funkternative Music". This sound along with the band's dynamic stage show earned them such honors as performing at the legendary CBGBs in New York as well as; television, radio & print media attention.
From playing on shows with mega-star James Brown and Hip Hop artist Method Man to recording CDs and touring the country, Tim gained valuable experience that would help shape his artistry. As Tim's love for musical expression grew, he found his way to other genres of music. In musical theater, he landed lead roles in productions of Ragtime & The Fantastiks; as well as supporting roles in several other plays. In Opera, with the Michigan Opera Theatre (MOT), he sang in the chorus & even performed on stage with Opera great, Denyce Graves in the original production of Margaret Garner. He is currently collaborating on a musical and an audio book while working on a solo project in the singer/songwriter genre.
Audrey Mabins (BM, MA), is an accomplished musician and educator who has performed nationally and internationally. A sought after performer she wows audiences with her eclectic style and unparalleled technical excellence. She draws upon her early roots of gospel music, her love of jazz and rhythm & blues to skillfully blend these genres into what has become her signature style of “piano soul”.
A native Detroiter, Audrey has had the privilege of studying with some of the area’s finest musicians. Beginning in high school and including her years at Wayne State University, she has been mentored by jazz greats like: Ernie Rodgers, Professor Denis Tini and the late Matthew (Matt) Michaels (to name a few).
As an educator Audrey has shared her gift of teaching for over 18 years with hundreds of Detroit Public Schools children as a Vocal Music teacher. In addition to teaching in the schools, Audrey regularly trains and works with many of the city’s finest choirs, singers and artists consistently establishing her growing demand and artistry.
She is a gifted composer and arranger which is evident in her first CD collaboration entitled “Ageless”, where Audrey brings an inspiring compilation of original and traditional gospel songs to life. Audrey is a born-again believer and mother of one son, Julian.
True to the original form of Hip- Hop, Mahogany Jones began as a poet. Raised in Mt. Vernon, New York, it was from the age of thirteen she began to compile hundreds of poems scribbled in composition notebooks. It wasn't until 96', during her first year of college, that in a small cafe called the Brooklyn Moon, that she began to hone the art of the Spoken Word by sharing mics with the likes of Saul Williams, Mums the Schemer, Sarah Jones, and several others. From then on she took theater classes, read countless poetry books, and in addition thrived on the poetic genius of em-cees from the underground. Livin' in the heart of BK and being the avant garde village rat she was is what introduced her to J-Live, Jean Grae, Stronghold, and a slew of emcee's whose verbal dexterity was deadly. Mahogany states "I caught the bug- It was my dream to rock the mic." In 2000 she became a member of Toni Blackman's ("Hip-Hop Ambassador"/Activist) Freestyle Union and with a rigorous diet of weekly freestyle session, accountability meetings and movement training an em-cee was born. Through it all there was still something missing, a void, and in that same year Jesus Christ filled it. It was in 2001, right before the rise of Poster Boy and Jin, that Mahogany Jones, a timid, 5'11 wordsmith would go to win B.E.T's "Freestyle Friday's" battle competition and come out a four time Champion and do so in the name of Christ. Now an active member of Holy Hip-Hop's movement, The Yunion, the only battling she is interested in is battling the degregation, mindless instant gratification, and poverty mentality that's suffocating Hip-Hop today. Her travels as both a spoken word artist and em-cee have taken her throughout the U.S. and have allowed her to grace stage line-ups with Dead Prez, The Roots, India Arie,and many others. Her debut full length project is "Morphed".
JEFF NELSONJeff Nelson is not only a poet but he's also a pastor. He brings a well performed, well written and spiritual flavor to the mix that is unmatched anywhere on the scene.
The Echoverse Poetry and Slam Series is Detroit's hottest, longest running poetry series. Hosted by DJ Andre Royster and JY Obadele, they have produced some of the area's most inspiring events. Their showcase events are designed as blended urban art exhibitions of literature, performance and music. These events showcase the talents of emerging and professional performance artists from across North America. As sound specialists, their musical repertoire includes: soul, classic jazz, hip hop, house and whatever genre required to communicate the needed musical truth.