YCA was connected to some of the most well-recognized poets in Chicago and in the country and so with them as my mentors I gained access to many venues not otherwise frequented by youth—I guess they saw something in me. Once my mentor "avery r young" told me to go to a poetry slam sponsored by C.C. Carter—the Windy City Black Pride Poetry Slam 2005 (I was 15 at the time). They checked the rule book to make sure I could compete. I was greeted as the little boy and the baby of the bunch, with cheek-pinching and patronizing from the other adult performers. I beat them all. I found myself on the front page of the Chicago FreePress the next morning. I performed on the HBO series Def Poetry Jam in 2005 which extended my career in performance poetry quite a bit.
What does slam poetry mean to you and where do you see its influence going?
I would say that slam poetry saved or changed my life. I had my very first chance to speak and be heard. I had a voice amongst a people who were socioeconomically voiceless. It was the only time I could tell the truth—my truth—and not be punished for it. I have never felt so free before, or since, than when I performed on the stages of LTAB.
I think slam poetry should be a staple in minority communities. Children have the freedom to be angry and say so without condemnation. And they actually have legitimate reasons to be angry. Slam Poetry for a minority teenager is like shaking a can of pop for hours and finally opening it. It’s going to explode. It’s going to be messy, maybe violent, but valid, and the mess that is made, where it could on the one hand be perceived as a stain, can be called art.
Where do you find your inspiration?
I am inspired very much by what I read. I read a lot of James Baldwin and Oyeronke Oyewumi. I believe that good writers should not walk around with notepads; they should walk around with books. Good writers read much more than they write, they listen much more than they speak, and they feel much more than they express. But at the root of any good writer are good people. "avery r young" always said to me there is no such thing as a good writer, dancer, etc., there is only such a thing as good people who usually tend to do things well.