How important are the Arts to the community?
The arts are not just important, they are vital. The way vessels move blood through the body, art moves culture through the community. And by that I mean the Global community. Art is the worlds most valuable commodity. It determines the way people eat, talk, dress, think and live,and its not finite like other commodities. This art of ours, Hip Hop is a phenomenon that has captivated the world in a way no other culture has. It is more than rap, it is an industry of innovation from the poorest neighborhoods and has created billionaires. Entire infrastructures that employee thousands of people. It is impossible to quantify the impact of hip hop, and I and my poetry full underneath the umbrella of it, I'd argue to say its the most important ingredient in my art, my person. Hence why I started my Non-Profit, Manifest Destiny to bring the Arts to underserved communities. Our literal tag line is 'Art Moves the City".
What makes a performance GOOD?
Sincerity. No performance is good without being heartfelt. I've performed the same poem in different moods, and they are received very differently. If your heart's not in the performance, I highly suggest you leave it alone. However, if you mean what you say and are ready to leave it all on the stage there will be an undeniable exchange of energy.
How do you protect your vulnerability from sharing your soul on stage?
It is almost impossible to protect yourself while being vulnerable. However, just because I wear my heart on my sleeve doesn't mean I'm willing to give you my shirt. The stage is an operating table, a place where you submit and allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to heal. Once you step off the stage, if the exchange was sincere, the audience will be in a place to heal as well. It is not your obligation as an artist to allow anyone to objectify or exploit your pain. The only place for them to receive that pain is on stage, they do not get to leisurely visit the pain you live in daily.
Share a scenario that your poetry had an impact on someone.
It is not how many people are at the party, it is who is at the party. I did a performance once in Orlando that was pretty empty. By that I mean really empty - maybe 10 people in the crowd. I didn't plan on staying long as I didn't see it benefiting me in my journey. I soon realized it wasn't for me to benefit. After 2 performers the host shared with him recently; within a matter of weeks, lost his sister and didn't know how to cope. I took the stage and showed him the poem I have tattooed on my arm and proceeded to say the entire poem I wrote about loss for my own sister who passed away a decade earlier. The manner in which he received the message could only be conveyed in the strength he applied when he hugged me afterwards.
What stage would you like to perform and why?
There are stages that mean more to me as a New Yorker than as a poet. When you combine those two, then the stages that mean the most to me are The Apollo and The Garden. Two dramatically different stages; one is intimate and a cornerstone of Black culture and the other is grand and the epicenter of success. I need both.
How have you grown from the type of poetry that has been shared and published?
Whenever words are spoken aloud you are then held accountable to them. Once my poetry is shared and published it reinforces those positions even as my perspective may evolve. A lot of my poetry is rhetorical, me trying to parse my thoughts so when I arrive at my conclusion that may not be in the poetry. Its lived. It also challenges your truth and how willing you are to stand in it. I love being branded as father and man, however flawed I may be at both.
Why is fatherhood so important to you?
I grew up in a traditional nuclear family and saw the benefits of having both parents in my house. I also witnessed a whole neighborhood that wasn't as fortunate and the impact it had on my peers. When I became a father I was overwhelmed with anxiety and inspired with curiosity. I was in charge of something so fragile and in its innocence was the most powerful thing in the world. Fatherhood is important to me because I am a man. You don't have to be a father to be a man, but you certainly have to be a man to be a dad. Accountability is rule number one in manhood. Absolutely no way to call yourself one while willinging neglecting your biggest responsibility.
Which of your poems were the most difficult to write or perform and why?
Wishes and Misses. I wrote that poem as we approached the first anniversary of my sisters death. She was my best friend. The general of an army of cousins and a mother to a 2 year old when she passed away. I was working at the Office of Naval Intelligence and they conducted a talent show for the command and opened it up to contractors. I volunteered and performed the poem WIshes and Misses for the entire command with a huge lump in my throat and pit in my stomach. All I could do in the poem was list my wishes as now being an only child, and what I missed most about our relationship. Those have yet to change.