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Good Day, Ladies and Gentlemen!
Even though the Summer of 2016 has not officially started, the 2016 Summer of Andrew Boyd took off into the upper stratosphere with the 2016 Black Poetry Cafe (which shall be recognized from this point on by its acronym “BPC”) Poetryfest!
After 22 years, Andrew has COME BACK TO ATLANTA!
The Philadelphia International Airport‘s TSA was very efficient to where they had plenty of lines opened for a very smooth experience for security checkpointing.
After clearing their screening, I met up with my friend Kelly Ragland who was sitting in a chair, charging and talking on her phone in the corridor that we would walk down around 10:30AM Thursday morning. After I grabbed a breakfast burrito, Kelly and I made our way to our departing concourse and waited roughly 5 minutes before they started boarding call. Boarding wasn’t too bad; rather quick, yet my bag was too big to be considered carry-on. I got a sticker, and was instructed to leave it by the plane entrance. I did so, then found my seat. I was sitting next to a gentleman right at the exit door. Within 10 minutes of getting seated, which was ultimately around or a little after 11AM, we took off and were Atlanta, GA bound!
You know what I dislike? NOT having a window seat! I love watching the world go by, and flying in the clouds. That, and I REALLY Wanted to record the take off and landing. What’s even worse? When the person you sit with closes the window so you don’t appreciate the view!
Our flight landed in Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport 30 minutes early: 1:30PM. Kelly and I made our way to baggage claim with 2 things in mind:
My bag was NOT lost, and
The 5 shot glasses I bought in Philadelphia were not damaged.
I am happy to report that neither fate befell me!
After leaving the airport terminal, Kelly and I waited about 15 minutes for the hotel shuttle to pick us up so we could go to the Holiday Inn Express Atlanta Airport North. It was a very short ride, no more than 7 minutes (counting traffic).
Upon arrival, Kelly and I were greeted by our great and dear friend Lee Lee Ain’t Ms. Behavin’ in the lobby along with other great poets. The CEO of BPC Mr. Mark Goggins arrived shortly after Kelly and me, greeting everyone he met with a smile, hugs, handshakes, and his cool shades.
At 3PM, I checked in and got my room keys (for SOME ODD REASON, hotels ALWAYS dole out 2 keys; I’m cool with that). After dropping off my bag that weighed around 100 pounds (exaggerating, but maybe not; the majority of the weight was in fact my bag of ALL 5 “WORDPLAY” titles, 10 of each copy). After taking that load off of my back, more mingling ensued. Within 30 minutes, the hostesses of “FEVER FRIDAYS” arrived. Monique Wells and Ashley Chambers were unloading their car, and I stepped in to assist. After hugging the ladies, I presented them with Philadelphia shot glasses. They were elated and appreciative of their gift, and I wheeled in their bags and up to their room.
After assisting Monique and Ashley, I return to the lobby, meet more great poets, and snapped several pictures (all of which AND videos from the entire event can be seen in the Atlanta and the BPC Poetryfest Experience 2016: IT IS a Public Album so those who are not friends on my Facebook page can see the snapshots).
After getting used to our surroundings, which include a KFC, Waffle House, Arby’s, Louisiana Bistreaux (will need to check that out another time), and a liquor store which were located across the street from the hotel, we were in route to Calabar and Grill in Stone Mountain, GA around 7:30PM. Kari “K.C.” Conley, Lee Lee, Kelly, and I were there within 30 minutes. Kelly and I signed up for the first event of the BPC Poetryfest experience: the “Put Yo Money Where Your Mic Is!” spoken word slam challenge, hosted by Monique and Ashley.
20 poets, 3 rounds, 1 poem per round that MUST be within the allotted 4 minute time limit.
The event went without a hitch and the 20 participants went in and went in H-A-R-D. After deliberation of who would go to the Top 7 for Round 2, names were announced.
My name and Kelly’s name were not announced.
If anything, that was my VERY FIRST slam elimination tournament and I was very appreciative of the opportunity to participate.
After the end of Round 2 and deliberation for that round, the final 2 poets were announced.
WELL… not exactly.
There was a tie! One of two young ladies entered the final round by the decision of The People. Our applause led to Kendal S. Turner going into the third round with Alive the Poet to determine the Dopest Poet of the Night.
After Alive and Kendal slammed, the last intermission took place. During that time, I approached Kendal and sat with her to talk about her poem for the last round: it was in regards to her father. I told her about how much I really appreciated hearing her poem, and it reminded me of “A Letter to You”, the poem I wrote about my birth father. After sharing my story with her about how the poem came to pass, we tightly hugged. As I got up to go back to my table, I told Kendal, “I think you got this.” She smiled as I was walking away.
Once the final votes were tallied, the announcement was made. Everyone who participated came on stage and everyone applauded. We were told at that time that this year’s slam challenge was, in ALL 11 years that BPC Poetryfest was around, THIS spoken word challenge was their HARDEST to decide. Then, the winner was announced:
Kendal S. Turner!
Kendal was excited, speechless, and very happy. So happy, she was at a loss for words. Her best friend Telesa Hines spoke on her behalf as Kendal held her head down, humbled by her big win.
Shortly thereafter, we enjoyed the company of those who stayed in attendance after the challenge and were serenaded by the DJ’s music. As the restaurant and bar was closing, I FINALLY met my dear friend Akua Perry and her girlfriend “Bear”. These ladies are very delightful!
Friday morning, there was an event: The BPC/Blessed Angels Homeless Event, located at the Gateway Center, hosted by Felicitee Love and TJ Nicole. Free admission, and donations were greatly appreciated. Sadly, I was still lagged from flying, so I and a few others took it easy Friday. I bought and brought socks as a donation, and will be mailing them out this weekend to the Gateway Center.
Aside from the Homeless Event, sleeping in and resting were on the menu as everyone waited for the time to arrive to go to the second event of the day: The BPC Poetryfest Show at the iLounge for more amazing spoken word poetry, hosted by Felicitee Love and Nelson Trimble. This time, featured poets recited their incredible works as we sat and listened to their prose. K.C. made her feature debut that night, nervousness aside. K.C. delivered powerful performances as we all applauded her as our happiness for her art was apparent.
Other featured artists included For Real The Poet Douglass, William Washington, Jayne Phlow, Marie Lyriq Grady, Talicha Johnson, Yarima Karima, Preech the Profit, Isna Tianti, LadyJae Flavaz, Queensmind Ase, Christine Poetically Correct Gretch, Born to Write, and Nikki Malone.
After everyone performed their incredible pieces, we mixed and mingled, enjoying the company of the dozens and dozens for the remainder of the night.
Returning to the Holiday Inn Express was a good call for some sleep.
Yet, that did not happen…
Shortly after returning to the hotel, we had “Lobby Life”: a poetic cipher where those who were awake shared some of their favorite poems with the audience that was present (I LOVE Lobby Life! It was an open forum where we had the greatest of fun with NO time limit or limit to the number of poems you desired to recite).
I personally went up about 3 times, others went once or twice. THEN THERE WAS FOR REAL THE POET DOUGLASS.
Let me say this: Mr. Douglass recited, BY FAR, the F-U-N-N-I-E-S-T poem I heard in life since the Canadian Geese poem and the one poem about queefing (I HEARD SOME STUFF in my day…) titled “Neckbones”, using his alterego “Macaroni”. It was a crowd participation piece where when he asked, “What’s My Name?”, which we responded with “MACARONI!”
My cheeks are STILL hurting from laughing so much!
It was a blast and a half having such a great time bonding with one another that night. I went back to my room around 2AM and was knocked out shortly thereafter.
*YES: I made sure to Google Map OUR Waffle House for Nostalgia*
*NOTE: during BPC Poetryfest, the diet of choice for many of the poets and their guests consisted of Waffle House. We COULD NOT GET ENOUGH OF WAFFLE HOUSE!*
Saturday was a full-on rest and relaxation day. Exploring the city and relaxing at the pool was in order before the final show took place later on that evening. After having some time cooling off in the pool after baking in the sun, everyone got themselves prepared for the final BPC Show of Poetryfest: Dashiki Night.
Everyone congregated to the room where the final event of Poetryfest was to be had, decked out in a beautiful array of colorful dashikis and African garb.
There were many performers who discussed love, politics, religion, any and all topics as we absorbed and recorded performance after performance. The event was then followed by an Open Mic after the featured poets performed. Many went on the Party Bus for the remainder of the night. I optioned to watch the open mic performances, esp. with me being one of the performers right along with Kelly and Lee Lee.
After the final show, everyone got photo ops with everyone who was still there, mingled, and also prepared themselves to return to their homes on Sunday.
Of course, this is a condensed version because I cannot hot wire my brain to the house computer to show you everything that I saw and experienced. What I CAN do, is speak freely about what BPC Poetryfest means and meant to me.
I first heard of the Black Poetry Cafe Poetryfest late last year during a “FEVER FRIDAYS” show. I NEVER knew that this event was 11 years strong. I NEVER understood its importance and symbolism to those who have organized and participated in Poetryfest. To Me, the Black Poetry Cafe Poetryfest was a stranger and foreign concept to me.
I can honestly say that, for me, BPC Poetryfest 2016 left me feeling something special: starting with the lead up to the event, during the event, the end of Poetryfest, and beyond. When I learned that it was going to be in Atlanta, GA, I KNEW that I had to be there. As stated earlier, 22 years ago, I was in Atlanta. The reason was I participated in the 1994 U.S. Transplant Games at Emory University (those who do not know, I am a two-time kidney transplant recipient).
Being able to put faces to voices from the “FEVER FRIDAYS” shows and Facebook (outside of profile pictures and albums) is a sentimental honor and privilege for not just myself, but for those who were there for the annual shows. Kelly Ragland described BPC Poetryfest in one epic sentence that I will NEVER forget:
“BPC Poetryfest is the Grammys of Poetry.”
Kelly made me a Believer the instant I started interacting with everyone. BPC Poetryfest DAMN SURE had a Grammys feel and energy since Day One, and it HAS NOT let up. I have met so many incredible ladies and gentlemen from all walks of life and backgrounds. To be in the presence of this and that much talent is beyond words. BPC Poetryfest is, has, and from that day forth will always be a humbling experience for me for a few reasons:
Hearing the poetry that I heard tells me to step up my writing ability and give my all,
Seeing the performances tell me that my delivery MUST be on point for maximum impact,
Feeling the amazingly positive energy that I felt the entire weekend tells me that I should certainly get out more, and
Being around SO MANY amazing, gifted, and talented people tells me how amazing that each and every one of them are to and for me and I hope that the same can be said about myself when it comes to when they think of me.
I am honored to not only have attended the BPC Poetryfest 2016, but to participate and experience it in all of its glory.
I would love to thank the CEO of Black Poetry Cafe Mark Goggins for arranging such an incredible poetry experience, Monique Wells and Ashley Chambers for speaking about Poetryfest on their show that fateful day that caused me to become not only curious, but to actually say “Yes: I want to go!”, Kelly Ragland for going with me so that she too may experience Poetryfest for the first time alongside of me (as well as that one picture at poolside and the pep talk that caused me to tap into “Nova” to deliver “True Character” to its fullest capability on Dashiki Night), Lee Lee Ain’t Ms. Behavin’ for being as excited for me and Kelly for finally experiencing Poetryfest, Kari “K.C.” Conley for all that she has done this weekend, Joe The Verbal Mind Dancer, Sylvia Blalock, Moni the Poet, and Bee Real with their little Prince Xavier for being so wonderful and showing us what Black Love is all about, Akua Perry for embracing my crazy ass, Mr. William “WaWa” Washington for humbling me when we met when he recognized my name, voice, and the poem “Chocolate”, every single poet in attendance and in spirit, everyone with whom I shook hands, hugged, kissed, embraced, laughed with, conversed with, swam with, ate with, and with whom I had the most amazing connections (ALL OF YOU).
To every one of you, there are not enough words to express how you all made me feel. I am misty-eyed, and it takes A WHOLE DAMN LOT to pull that off within my cold heart and make it swell 3 times bigger (no, that’s the Grinch…).
Seriously, all I can say is…
Thank you all, SO MUCH, for having me at the 2016 Black Poetry Cafe Poetryfest, and I can guaran-damn-tee that I WILL be there for Myrtle Beach!