I can’t explain the dopeness of Def Poetry Jam or the 5 seasons of magic it gave at the hosting of Mos Def. I can’t even express the happiness I have went I run across a video of a spoken word artist on YouTube that I once saw on Def Poetry Jam!
Perhaps this is why am fan of what my good girlfriend LaTasha Jackson is doing with her writing project V.E.N.T. (Voices Everyone Needs To Hear). Def Poetry Jam is described like this:
“…television series hosted by Mos Def and airing on HBO between 2002 and 2007. The series features performances by established and up-and-coming spoken word poets. Performances also include special appearances by well-known actors and musicians, as well as occasional performances by Mos Def himself. Co-created by Bruce George, Danny Simmons, Cameron Caldwell, Deborah Pointer, Stan Lathan, and Russell Simmons, the show is a spin-off of the popular Def Comedy Jam which began airing on HBO in the 90’s. As with Def Comedy, Simmons appears at the end of every episode to thank the audience.”(Wikipedia.com)
You have to understand one thing. Writing, being a Black writer, is a different animal. It is a journey that is beautiful, tenacious and without support–devastating. Def Poetry Jam gave me a place to see people that looked like me, doing what I loved–and making a living at it. And most importantly giving space to do it!
There was a power to this show, a presence and a honor associated with being called ‘a Def poet.’ Whether you only did spoken word or read from a paper, there was a space for you. There is a power when the written word, or spoken one is wielded by people you love and admire. I wish that the show didn’t end 13 years ago! If there is any show they needs to be revamped it is Def Poetry Jam.
Lyrics are poetry. Rap is poetry. Hip-Hop has meter, measures and stanzas–all things your find in poetry. All things that are needed to pay attention to as a writer or poet.
This is one of the reasons I support VENT–I see where the vision can lead. This is why I love the group Write About Now on Facebook-I see echoes of Def Poetry Jam there (Have you heard the ‘Starbucks’ poem by Rudy Francisco?! If not you need to! Now!). I see the talent that is there and needs to be cultivated. If Russell Simmons can leave such a legacy, surely we can do the same and support local writers, poets and spoken word artists. It’s not just a hobby–its what we do.
Support artists. They need us. We need them. Flat out.
[Image from alchetron.com]