Far More than Just Words
by Jamillia Kamara
Mike Reid wore causal glasses, a polo shirt, Dockers, and sneaks from Aldo. His demeanor was reflective as he surveyed the sardine stacked room of expectant faces. His vibe is refreshingly familiar for someone who has sold over 25,000 copies of his books. Every member of that audience felt the gravity of those opening minutes, myself included. He looked down at the microphone and paused before humbly saying:
“This is major. I’m just...Mike. So thank you. Thank you all for coming out.”
Reid is more than “Just Mike.” His story of triumph communicates a quiet strength. “I never thought I was bigger than anyone else. This is me being me, and inspiring others. I make it a point to maintain regularity. Just because I have more opportunities doesn’t mean that I’m different than anyone else.”
If you missed the Just Words Poetry Tour presented by Reid on April 13th, you missed an iconic moment in Philadelphia’s history. Never before has Live Nation had a show in Philly with more than 400 attendees. Never before have seven poets sold out a venue as large as The Living Arts Theatre on South Street.
No endorsements. No sponsorships. No interviews. Just 15,000 fliers and good old-fashioned hard work.
More than 1,100 people stood to watch these artists spill their souls onto the stage. Their work was powerful—even first time poetry show guests were floored. As for me, there were goose bumps on my arms from start to finish.
Before the show started, I had a chance to chat with Gregory Corbin, Luis Marrero, and Dominique Ginobile. Corbin is the creator and founder of the widely recognized Philadelphia Youth Poetry Movement (PYPM). Marrero founded the organization Voices in Power, which hosts monthly open mics for poets and emcees. Ginobile is a Voices in Power poet who recently rediscovered her artistic talents— she creates custom caricatures featuring everyone from Tupac Shakur to a signature afro silhouette of a woman.
Corbin was noticeably light hearted when I spoke with him. “I feel excited, you know. Sometimes you’ll have a vision and a lot of people won’t see that vision, so it feels good to see this come together the way it has. We hope that people really have a good time. We want someone to go home and write. We [are] magicians. We [are] optimists.”
Marrero and Ginobile were stationed on the stage while Ginobile meticulously organized her live painting setup. “Before every show, I go to the bathroom or a quiet room and spit my whole set,” said Marrero. “Then, when I touch the stage, I say a prayer, close my eyes, and give it my all.” For Ginobile, this event signified exposure and opportunity. “I’m nervous! What happens if I mess up in front of 1,000 people? I can’t just erase it!” Her nerves were misplaced. The painting she created during the show sold before it left the building.
To be continued...
Photography by Max Grudzinski