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South Dallas Cultural Center Offers a Twist on Open Mic with Forum

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Story and Photos by Michelle London Bell

Last Thursday’s spoken word event at the South Dallas Cultural Center was inspirational.  The event’s host, National Poetry Slam Champ Mike Guinn, added a unique twist to the regular open mic program by inviting special guest Erinn Davenport, Founder of Renewing Your Spirit, to moderate an open panel.  The discussion focused on the moving and critically acclaimed movie For Colored Girls.  Moderators Guinn and Davenport found the subject to be a great way to marry the art of spoken word to the content of the movie.

Davenport opened the evening with an introduction about her organization and how this forum came about in the first place.  Initially, Erinn had an intimate outing with girlfriends in mind which involved viewing and discussing the movie; but after posting her idea onto Facebook – she realized 3000 women across the country in different cities spanning the US had the same idea.

“So, after identifying where the largest audience was, I flew to California to host an event with 150 African-American women in attendance,” stated Davenport.  From there, it spawned a “movement” of sorts, which Erin dubbed to be a “rejuvenation” celebrating sisterhood.

She witnessed on a spiritual level the need for these women of color to open dialogue on their plight and travails in life in a safe and harmonious environment.  These same women, which Erinn characterized as “invisible” to society, were in search for a better quality of life and a means to unite with one another along the same vein as what has been described as “the essence of [black women’s] survival in this country, dating back to slavery.” She emphasized that the film, which has spurred so much discussion across the nation was the perfect “gateway for this conversation.”
Mike and Erinn kicked off the forum with a generic question that ignited many responses: “What connected you with one or more of the characters?”  Zakira Bradley, an aspiring poet and high school student at DeSoto High School, cited Kimberly Elise’s character and story as something that resonated with her.  Bradley voiced her observation of many young girls who struggle with abuse and lack of self-esteem and are willing to “belittle themselves” under the guise of love.

Guinn was perplexed and retorted: “I have always wondered why women stay in such situations.”  A myriad of answers sprung forth that directly connected to the portrayal of the character in the film – loyalty, emotional and physical attachment to the relationship, a need and desire for the abuser to control the weak and vulnerable, fear, and many other reasons.
The discussion later turned to other issues which plague the African-American community and suddenly became more deep and complex.  Issues explored include the lack of holistic and emotional well-being of African-American women due to the Superwoman syndrome, as well as generational differences, a fundamental loss of core values and a lack of “community” to reinforce our familial ties.
After a brief intermission, Guinn opened the mic to artistic expression, with captivating pieces like “Lost and Found” by Zakira Bradley, “I Am Beautiful” by Afro Betty, and “Friendship Compromised” by GF Soldier.  All the poems were riveting and engaging – and a perfect complement to the forum on the film.
Erinn concluded the evening with final remarks to encourage attendees to not only continue to pursue their respective dreams with passion and vigor, but to maintain the courage to express their views on social issues going forward.  “There needs to be a continual open dialogue to elevate social consciousness on these issues in our community,” she said.
Mike Guinn invites us to do just that – to come out and be a part of the conversation every third Thursday of each month at the South Dallas Cultural Center for the open mic set, which is free and open to the public.

Erinn Davenport’s sistermovement, Renewing Your Spirit has expanded into an online radio show, e-zine, and daily inspirational blog to encourage unity and sisterhood and recharging of sisters throughout her 25,000 member community.

  • Erinn Venerable

    Fabulous! Thank you Michelle!

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