Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Open-Mic Profiles: The Brooklyn Poet

This first character profile will be based on a regular of my open-mic, and one whom I consider a good friend, The Brooklyn Poet.

Brooklyn Poet first came to the International many months ago. He had signed up late, and mentioned that he was going to do poetry. When it was finally his turn up at the mic, the first thing he did was shout to the crowded and loud cafe, "Respect the mic!"

He repeated this over and over until he'd gotten the entire joint to be quiet and listen to his poetry. It reminded me of a combination of Hip-Hop and Langston Hughes. Not necessarily as good, but as imaginative. He used a simple cadence, rhyming, and invoked a multitude of Black cultural icons, from Malcom X to the Notorious B.I.G. He talked about b-boying, recovering from addiction, the beauty of a woman, and how people went about getting respect. He spoke with his arms a lot, even though he read some of his work from pieces of paper. This often involved gesturing out the actions that his poems described, whether they be mimicking a gun being drawn, or his disappointment that Rap has seemed to trump Hip-Hop.

Since his first time at the open-mic, I have featured him only once. The opportunity rarely seemed to present itself as TBP works two jobs nearly full-time, and always has to come late to the open-mic due to being held up.

But over time I've learned a few things about him. Born in Bed-Stuy, TBP lived a hard-life as a young Black man in a neighborhood dealing with gang riots at the time. His lived experience is a testament to the problems of dealing with racism, classism, and civil unrest.

Yet nowadays he stands tall, loud, and dominants his space on the mic, talking openly about all of these issues, and his own checkered history with addiction, abuse, and other problems of this world.

He speaks to a very assertive, a very activist kind of Hope, based on wordsmithing and intent.

But despite the imposing, and often scary (especially when he starts yelling for people to shut up while he's reading!) attitude he crafts while spitting poetry, his personality off the stage is much more relaxed. Dare I say, jovial?

And he has been there for me as a friend, back when I was dealing with a complicated situation from my housemates. It got ugly, and it was during a Friday when I would normally have had to be at the open-mic. He had called to see about sign-ups, and when I told him the happenstance he offered to guest-host for me until I'd worked things out. Even more, he said if things didn't work out, he'd stop by with some of his friends and settle it so I didn't have to stress anymore.

Truly, he is a very caring individual, despite all the differences of age, race, class, and lived experience. I am glad to know him.


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