All Articles Tagged "spoken word"
For a traveling poet/spoken word performance artist, sharing your gift with varying and growing audiences is a dream come true. At least it is for Talitha Anyabwele, an artist who’s traveled state-to-state promoting her passion, and now her business Black Girl Speaks Productions, Inc. Solely headed by Anyabwele, BGS was launched shortly after she abruptly checked out of corporate America.
Although she’s pursuing her passion, most times Anyabwele says she feels like she’s indeed running a business. In late October, due to her daughter’s illness, she was forced to reschedule her show in Minneapolis. It’s situations like these that puts her job as a poet on the back burner and brings Anyabwele’s duties as CEO and artistic director into focus.
“I’m reminded BGS is a business around tax season; when I have to do my reports, budgets and income statements. I don’t like doing those things, but it’s necessary,” she said.
“The weekend I had to cancel my show, I had to eat the nonrefundable costs that come with that. It was a business and personal decision and I know that when I don’t put forth my best effort every single day, I don’t get paid. I am fully responsible for all of the income and all of the output,” she added.
Shaping the Business of Thought and Theatrics
BGS spawned from a much-needed stress reliever. Working as a principal, in winter 2005 Anyabwele performed a few pieces at Amen-Ra’s Bookshop and Gallery in Tallahassee. Prior to her stint in education she worked as a business professional in her hometown of Atlanta.
“I did corporate America because that’s what you’re supposed to do when you’re smart, capable and do it with ease. I fell into the trap of doing what made sense instead of what made me happy,” Anyabwele said.
During her hour and a half commute to Atlanta, she would literally cry out of frustration and having to contain the burning desire to quit. Retuning to her alma mater Florida A&M University for a friend’s graduation, Anyabwele resolved her place in the professional world.
“I saw how happy and eager she was to start her career. I realized I didn’t have that anymore and I abruptly quit,” she tells us. “I just didn’t go back. I wouldn’t advise that, because I completely burnt that bridge. I probably should have left it open, but thankfully I didn’t have to cross it again.”
It was then Anyabwele temporarily left business behind for education. While better satisfied with her professional direction, she still enjoyed an occasional poetic release, revisiting the days when she performed at FAMU with a spoken word troupe. Reactions from her first solo performance at the bookshop set her on her most-desired path.
“It was one of those things that kind of made the decision for me. From the response I realized it was greater than me. This had to be something for the masses, especially for black women,” Anyabwele remembers. “The demand was so great I knew that this was something that could be not only my passion, but something that was profitable.”
Learning to Create Greater Demand and Absorbing Costs
Initially Anyabwele figured that BGS could operate multiple ways. When first starting out, she set up shows just like the one at Amen Ra’s. Once word-of-mouth buzz developed, Anyabwele contacted colleges across the country about the one-woman show, booking 12 schools. With the colleges buying the show, Anyabwele had no costs; the school would pay for her to perform and she would reap the benefits of the show. Eventually she earned enough capital to try a different strategy.
“That’s what set me up to produce the show myself. I’m glad I used that strategy first. Now, I do the show one of two ways,” she said. “I produce it myself and absorb all of the costs meaning I find a venue, I rent it, I have to find a PR team, publish and print the tickets. That’s the most expensive way of doing it. It has the highest risk, but it also yields the highest return if it’s done correctly.”
Depending on the venue’s size, Anyabwele invests anywhere from $10,00 to $25,000 for production costs.
Cancelling or postponing shows of course is never a part of the plan. With Anyabwele’s current method of operation, the impact cancellations put on business is great. Fortunately, they rarely happen and there are a plethora of opportunities to reschedule. Anyabwele’s 2012-2013 season already has seven dates — Atlanta, Detroit, Cincinnati, New York, Charlotte, Minneapolis and Tampa, where BGS is based. One of her ultimate goals is to do an HBCU tour.
We lost a legend. Songwriter, novelist, activist and poet Gil Scott-Heron passed away yesterday afternoon in New York Hospital. He was 62 years old. A master of spoken word, Scott-Heron spoke about issues of racism, poverty and social injustice, laying the groundwork for the socially conscious lyrics associated with true Hip Hop. Many have called him the godfather of the genre.
Born in Chicago in 1949, Scott-Heron was raised by his mother and grandmother in Jackson, Tennessee. He had an affinity for music and listened to the radio attempting to pick out harmonies so he could try and play them by ear. Later in college, Scott-Heron discovered the work of Langston Hughes. He wrote his most famous poem “The Revolution Will Not be Televised” in 1968 at the age of 19. By 23, he had published a book of poems, two novels and had recorded three albums.
Although he frequently delivered messages against drug use and the affects they have the community, Scott-Heron was arrested in 2001 for possession of cocaine and took a lengthy hiatus from the limelight until 2009 when he released his solo recording, “I’m New Here” at age 60.
To honor the man who did so much for our social awareness and music as we know it today, let’s look at some of Scott-Heron’s most memorable works.
Al Letson is not your typical radio host. He doesn’t warp the daily horoscope for laughs, he doesn’t acquiesce to the latest celebrity gossip and his face will probably never appear on the side of a bus. He’s more likely to be found hovering around one of those bus stops or at a local poetry reading, getting to know the stories of real people who are often talked about, but rarely actually listened to in mainstream media.
Much has been said in politics this year about the residents of “Main Street” – what they supposedly want, need and are not receiving from their leaders. Letson, understanding the basic human desire for self-expression and the comfort of a listening ear, found a way to broadcast their stories to an audience bigger than most of the small towns he reports from.
Three years ago, Letson entered a competition sponsored by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting aimed at finding a new voice in public radio talent. The Public Radio Talent Quest offered a grant that provided a year’s worth of funding for an independently produced radio show that would speak to a new generation of Americans. There were no guarantees that the winner of the contest would have his or her show aired on the radio, or even played for audiences outside of the judging panel. But Letson, a professional poet and spoken word artist, took his vision for a program that valued the insight and stories of regular people and produced “State of the Re:Union” that now airs on more than 170 NPR stations nationwide.
SOTRU focuses on the way small communities across the country band together to solve their problems for the greater good. “The way our media tends to portray this country is not how it’s lived on the ground,” he said. “I went to a small town in Kansas, one of the reddest states, and it had been destroyed by a tornado. Everybody in the community chipped in their own money to rebuild downtown. That’s socialism. I’ve traveled the country and seen places where you think ideas like that would not be able to take route, but people figure out ways to make things work.”
A career in public broadcasting was the destination on an unlikely path. He maneuvered most of his career throughout the Poetry Slam Movement, which helped him develop as an artist and ease the transition into nationally syndicated radio host. Before NPR, he was lending his voice to HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, CBS’s Final Four PreGame Show and commercial features for Sony and Adobe Software. Each step unknowingly prepared him for this moment.