With apologies to Mr. Frost, Bryan Baquirian was determined to seize by the neck the 25 or so people gathered Friday at the CityArts Factory in downtown Orlando and shake them to the core:
And on he went.
So if you're tired of just being a plant, then go reach for the sun so you can grow into a tree!/Let your spirit nourish your quench of thirst and you'll see!
Finger snaps all around.
In that moment, the 17-year-old sensed it.
To soften hearts. To challenge minds. To move the masses. To initiate change.
The power of words.
For Bryan and the other teenagers who performed Friday, the reaction only corroborated what Jolonda Blackmon has been preaching ever since she started Spoken Word Press — her crusade to help teens nurture their creative voices.
Through spoken-word poetry or slam — a style in which the passion of the performance is as vital as the verse — teens can be a force for change.
I watched her charges during a mini-tune-up/fundraiser for next week's Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival in San Francisco, billed as the world's largest ongoing spoken-word event. Team Rock-it is short on funds, but long on passion, talent and social consciousness.
They come by it honestly.
Blackmon grew up in a single-parent household in west Orlando. Awakened by sirens one night, she stood at her window clenching the burglar bars, watching police handcuff a teenager. Like her.
"That hit me," says Blackmon, now 32, "as to what is going on with our generation."
Like her mother the missionary, she committed to saving souls. Just outside the church.
"Community work was my purpose and what I was meant to do."
Having performed as Blu Bailey in spoken-word competitions — she was ranked 19th in the Individual World Poetry Slam in 2008 — merging her passion and her mission into Spoken Word Press four years ago was a natural progression.