Monday, January 27, 2014

A Full Mug

It was a Monday night in the Anacostia section of DC, we were three; Kenny Carroll, Brian Gilmore and myself, all chilling at the Eight Rock Cultural Arts Center that Kenny ran. We had a poetry group, the 8 Rock Collective that was named after the center. We were hanging out after setting up some future readings. Then Kenny's phone rang, like it had a hundred times before. I could hear that the voice on the other end was feminine, yet husky with a hint of smoke. It was also harried and pouring out of the phone at a quicker than normal rate. We only knew one woman with a voice that sexy and that was Toni Asante Lightfoot. Toni was a local poet who also hosted reading series, her last series had been on Monday nights at a now defunct joint called Soul Brothers Pizza. I often would show up there and read because the owner Chris would give me free pizza in appreciation for my poetic contributions. He knew me from my former days as one of DC's legendary DJs at the Eastside Nightclub. But Soul Brother's hadn't lasted. Now it seems that Toni had started a new Monday night reading to replace that one at a new black owned coffee shop in Georgetown. Tonight was her first night and she unexpectedly had a full house, there was just one small problem-while almost everyone there had come to hear poetry, none of them were actually poets themselves The only poets present were Toni and her friend Toni Blackman. So, she wanted to know if we could swing by and drop some stanzas until she could maybe round up another poet or two. We piled into Kenny's car and swung by. Not only was the joint full, but it was full of some of the most beautiful and well dressed Buppies that one could imagine. There was no room left to sit so we commandeered the stairs. One by one she called us up and we did our thing. We didn't know it then but it was the beginning of a vibrant chapter in the literary history of Washington, DC, a city with some serious history already, especially where black poetry was concerned. Langston Hughes, Sterling Brown, Georgia Douglas Johnson, the list goes on and on. One would never expect an Open Mic night to reap such rewards, but this was no ordinary Open Mic. Jelani Cobb, Ta Nehisi Coates, and A. Van Jordan are just a few of the now well known poets and writers who were regulars. Now, jump across twenty years, the Mug coffee shop has long since closed and been turned into a swanky furniture store, but you can still catch a sip of its former flavor. This Friday Jan. 31st at 6:00 PM, the Kennedy Center will host a 20 Year Reunion Reading for It's Your Mug on the Millenium Stage. Toni will be the host and I'll be there kicking some old stuff and a new piece or two. Ernesto Mercer, Toni Blackman, Twain Dooley and Holly Bass are just a few of the poets who are scheduled to appear. You don't want to miss this, trust me, you don't. If you can't make it, the event will be streamed live and archived for later viewing here

And until next we meet, may all you potatoes be sweet (and dusted with cinnamon.)

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