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THE INK MAGAZINE SPOKENWORD + THE ARTS +DOPENESS

January 2021

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TIPS THAT WILL ENHANCE YOUR ON STAGE PERFORMANCE

PLUS

The JRose Experience From the Grave

COVID gave birth to a new wave of poets

Kayah Alexandra The poetic kaleidoscope

Gwendolyn Brooks


THE INK MAGAZINE| Â JANUARY 2021

ENTRY 10 Welcome to the first issue of 2021. We are vastly approaching our 1year anniversary in March. To commemorate that event, we are holding a cover contest for March-in which poets can submit a oneminute video of them performing or speaking their poetry. This can be a brand new poem or a snippet of another poem. Either way, it just has to be under a minute long. In addition, you can't submit your video if you were a previous feature. After you submit your video, we will post it to our Instagram page for three days. During those three days, people can vote, or "like" your video. Whoever has the most "likes" at the end of the contest will be the feature for March. Submissions ended on 1/18, but we will extend it to 1/23. Submit your video to our inbox on Instagram. If you're not on IG, send to info@theinkmag.com. Oh, BTW, I think this is my favorite issue of alltime. The Gwendolyn Brooks interview is a gem.

Tyran Saffold Jr


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TABLE OF CONTENTS

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THE INK MAGAZINE

Open Mic Spotlight: The JRose Experience

4 Tips to improve 08 your SpokenWord performances 09

From the Grave with Gwendolyn Brooks

13

Pod Poets Trivia: Play along and tune in to the show!

Spilled Ink: The Winners of the 14 PodPoets Lounge show off thier talent

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05

09

14

Featured SpokenWord Artist Kayah Alenxandra 16 shows why she is the poetic Kaleidescope

Dallas, TX

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THE INK MAGAZINE Milwaukee, WI - Dallas, TX www.theinkmag.com


@_nishasimone


Available on

1/25/21

Urban Fiction

What is it about? Deep down inside, we all want to be

loved and cared for and it is no

different for Jada. After a traumatic

breakup with her boyfriend, she loses

faith in God and her family blames her

for messing up a good thing. Upon

feeling rejection from those closest to

her, she receives attention from an

unsuspecting love. As she falls for him,

she feels herself being pulled away

from her family while her spiritual

foundation continues to crumble. But

her new love has ulterior motives and

a dark past that she is yet to realize—

and it could end up costing her more

than she bargained.

theinkmag.com |


OPEN MIC SPOTLIGHT

THE JROSE EXPERIENCE

How did the J Rose experience come about?

JRose. An Innovator and SpokenWord artist, she aims to change the world-- one word at a time.

INTERVIEWED BY TYRAN SAFFOLD JR

The JRose experience was my attempt to expand my platform and reach more people. I felt like I wanted more people to have access to the art that was being expressed on stage. And I thought to myself, 'well, what better way than to do a talk show and interview these poets and have intimate conversations that

creative people have with each other. A lot of times, you go to an open mic and then at the end, everybody is standing outside talking and sometimes they break into a poetry cipher. I wanted to put that on screen and reach more people. I wanted to put it on a platform where everyone can see it and have a deeper look at the life of a poet.

5Â | JRose


YouTube: The JRose Experience

Did you start this before COVID or during COVID lockdowns?

not everybody is invested in your project and your vision the same way. So, I took a month off to figure Before COVID. My first it out and then in January of 2020, I attempt to start filming was filmed the first season. I shot the half in the winter of 2019. I the first season in January and the filmed a couple of episodes. other half in February, and then it It was just me and a couple dropped the week we went into friends that were helping lockdown me get it off the ground. You got it kicked off before But, it didn't play out as everything was starting to successfully as I wanted it to. Sometimes with friends, get crazy.

Yeah, but that's what ended up birthing "Whatchu say, Poet?", another one of my projects. We couldn't get back into the studios to film the next season. So I ended up doing "Whatchu say, Poet", which was a virtual version of the show, but the JRose experienced has a different format. "Whatchu say, Poet" is a one-on-one interview with one poet for like 30 - 40 minutes. The JRose experiences is an entire hour with two guests. They have performances, we do a group discussion and we play a game together. It's a lot more interactive, but "Whatchu say, Poet" was a way to let me do continue adding content and bringing intimate looks at a poet's perspective of life until I could get back into the studio. And then quarantine pushed us into this digital box that, although it felt small, it was actually an explosion of an audience.

COVID connected us with a lot of different people, creatively. Absolutely. So, I started connecting with people like outside of New York, you know, all over the country, all over the world. And that's when the JRose experience evolved into a traveling show.

6 | JRose


Originally the concept of the show was to highlight New York poets. But when I met so many other amazing people outside of the state, I said 'well, maybe we can travel'. And my production team was like, 'yeah, we can do it. It's easier than you think.' So, we ended up going to Atlanta in august and doing the second season. And then this past November, we went to Philadelphia and filmed the third season. That will be dropping in the beginning of February. How do you select your guests? When it was the New York season, it was really easy because I know everybody out here. But for everyone else, it was really through the collaboration of the connections that I made in those cities. I was directed to a lot of different poets. I also got really clever because I do social media marketing and management. So I got kind of clever and I searched through hashtags. So, when I was looking for Atlanta poets, I was searching hashtag ATL poets. I started going to people's Instagram and checking out their performances, looking at their YouTube channels and then I would reach out. For me, they needed to have a good stage presence in their performance. And what was really important to me, it wasn't a deal breaker, but what was really important to me was looking for poets that had projects, you know? Like books or poetry albums or something that is worth promoting on the show. I didn't just want it be an intimate look at poets, but I also wanted it to be a platform for poets and creatives to market themselves and promote their projects.

Exactly. I feel like my living goal is to be that pioneer, you know, because there's so many that came before us. People that brought poetry to the masses, but didn't last long enough, you know, like they had Def Poetry which was really popular in the early 2000s, but it didn't last long. So, what I'm trying to establish is something that's going to be everlasting, like an evergreen genre of like entertainment. I really want to bring poetry to homes of people that aren't used to hearing spoken word or they view spoken word in a certain light, You know, like they see in the movies, I always get the people that be like, 'Oh, you do poetry?'. And I'm like, 'yeah'. And then they'd be like, 'and the raaaaaain is fallin' on my heaaaaaaad' and i'm just like, oh, my gosh. No. <laughing> I blame Darius Lovehall and Love Jones for that <laughing> I mean, there is poetry like that, but there's so much versatility with spoken word especially now. People are so creative, like we're in a digital world where people are doing visuals for their poetry. People are doing albums, you know, people are doing really amazing things with poetry. Rappers are looking to have poets on their album because it adds a layer of versatility to their music.

So, where do you, where do you see the J Rose experience going? Oh, we are going international, baby! Definitely. I feel it is inevitable for us to end up overseas and start putting poetry on a world map. That's my goal as well. To help make poetry a lot more mainstream.

7 | JRose


2. Practice

SPOKENWORD/THE ARTS

4 Tips to improve your performances A few ways to make sure you leave a mark on stage-- and with your audience. Photo by Marcos Luiz

Practice with interruptions. While you are in the middle of practicing, ask one of your friends to interrupt you. Make them yell or do something crazy to try to knock you off track. Interruptions will happen while you are on stage. You have to learn to power through them and keep on spitting. 3. Entertain The Audience Entertainment is a big part of spokenword. Make eye contact. Let them feel you through your body movement. Even if they don't remember what you said, they will remember how you made them feel. 4. Let The Lines Breathe ometimes, your lines will resonate with a crowd and they will give you the "oohs" and "ahhs". Don't speak over them. Let the audience bask in what you have said. Not only does it give a dramatic effect, it means they are hanging on your every word. Use it to your advantage!

Written by Audrey Harris

1. Study other poets

Are there any poets out there that Spokenword is an art. People get you admire? Well, study them. See on stage and express themselves the way they move thier hands through words. Many times, it is while erforming. Observe thier therapeutic for the poets who take body language. What do they do stage. But, with that, there is also before and after a performance. an entertainment aspect involved. Take notes and then add your flair If you want to become a better to it. A lot of times, what you do performer on stage, or a better and say before you spit your poem slam poet, then her are a few tips will influence the audience one to lead you in the right direction. way or the other.

CONNECT WITH US ON INSTAGRAM For more tips and the latest info on The ink Magazine! @THEINKMAGAZINE

THE INK MAGAZINE   |  8


Interviewed by Photo by Bettmant

TYRAN SAFFOLD JR

Gwendolyn Gwendolyn Brooks is one of the most influential poets of 20th-century American poetry. I stumbled upon her work in The Oxford Anthology of African-American poetry and from there, I had to find out more about her. She wrote poetry, but it read like short novels. Her descriptive style, teamed with her clever lyricism, helped her become the first black author to win the Pulitzer Price. She was also the poetry consultant to the Library of Congress—the first Black woman to hold that position—and poet laureate of the State of Illinois. She had a primary focus on the plight of black people and her poems reflected the civil right activism of the 1960s. In short, she was definitely “for the culture” in such a way that she was able to bridge the gap between academic poets of her generation and the young, militant black writers of the same time. I guess you could say that, “she was good in any hood.” I present to you, one of the dopest—intelligent—lyrically gifted writers that The ink Magazine has ever interviewed. What a way to kick off 2021!

Brooks

From The Grave 9


Ms. Brooks, I thank you for taking the time to speak with me. Oh, I wasn’t doing much. I am honored to be selected for your platform. No, all the honor is in my lap. You absolutely left your fingerprints on the world of fiction and poetry, but before we get into that, let’s get a little background about you. Where are you from? I was born in Topeka, Kansas but raised in Chicago. Which part? The Southside. Oh, nice! There is a poet that we featured in one of our earlier issues. A couple, actually. They are from the South-Side of Chicago. K. Love and Jeronimo Speaks. I guess there is nothing but talent brewing in the city. But, tell us a little bit about your childhood. What are your first memories of writing?

Very early in life I became fascinated with the wonders language could achieve, so I began playing with words. Did your parents help with your newly found writing passion? <Playfully taps my leg> Honey, did they ever! My dear father was a janitor. A hard working man who was full of goodness and gentleness. My mother was a school teacher and classically trained pianist. Both were extremely supportive of my passion for reading and writing. My father provided me with a desk with many little compartments, with long drawers at the bottom, and a removable glass-protected shelf at the top, for books. Certainly, up there, holding special delights for a writing-girl, were the Emily of New Moon books, L.M. Montgomery’s books about a Canadian girl who wrote and kept notebooks even as I kept notebooks. I loved the little adventures — and yearned to meet their splendid creator. But who ever met an Author? Certainly there, also, to look down on me whenever I sat at the desk, was Paul Laurence Dunbar. ‘You,’ my mother said, ‘are going to be the lady Paul Laurence Dunbar.’ I still own the Emily books and the Complete Paul Laurence Dunbar. Of course I would be a poet! Was a poet! I wrote a poem every day. Sometimes two 1 poems.

Photo by: Columbic Chronicle

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Was your father the most supportive? No, baby! Not at all. My mother played an integral part as well. She took me to the library when I was about four or five. I enjoyed reading poetry and I tried to write it when I was about seven, at the time that I first tried to put rhymes together. And I have loved it ever since. What did that lead to? Well, when I was 13, I published my first poem, “Eventide.” It appeared in American Childhood. By the time I was 17, I had began regularly publishing poems in the Chicago Defender, a newspaper that served Chicago’s African-American communities. I attended writing workshops and things of that nature. I would say that, shortly after that, I went to a junior college and simultaneously worked for the NAACP, or, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. I would also so that it was around that time that my poems began to reflect on the Black experience at that time. I saw how we were living and it resonated with me. Sometimes, it was positive, but other times, it was in contrast to the benefits I saw other cultures have. Things that, for whatever reason, we were not afforded. Do you have a writing process? When I start writing a poem, I don’t think about models or what anybody else in the world has done. I am interested in telling my particular truth as I have seen it. I don’t sit down and say, ‘I am now going to write a poem by, about, and to all blacks.’ I am myself. I am consumed with the passion of ideas that I came to believe in, in the late sixties. They are now built into myself. I am THAT — so anything that I write is going to issue from a concern with and interest in blackness 2 and its progress.

What happened to you yesterday and last week and six years ago and ten minutes ago, and what you surmise may happen tomorrow is poetry-in-the-rough. Strain it — distill — work the magic of carefully-chosen 3 words upon it — and there’s poetry. Did you ever think your poetry would have this type of effect on following generations? I’ve written so many poems that I believe some of them will stay alive. People write me wonderful letters saying this poem or that poem has meant very much to them and in some cases has changed their direction. So 4 I hope I’ll still be useful when I’m no longer here. It is useful, by all means. I was given a book. The Oxford Anthology of African-American poetry and I was reading through the book and came across your poems. "Beverly Hills, Chicago"—"Music for Martyrs". Those were two of my favorite. Oh, and "We Real Cool." Thank you, young man. You know, I just wanted to want to write poetry that would appeal to many, many blacks, not just the blacks who go to college but also to those who have their customary habitat in taverns and in the street — people who have grown up feeling that poetry was not for them, but who are able to enjoy poetry if it seems relevant to what they know of life. 5

Can you define what it is to be a poet?

Did it ever become hard for you to write poems? Like, did you ever overthink it?

A poet is one who distills experience — strains experience. A poet looks — sees. Poets oblige themselves to see. Poetry is siren, prose is survey. I keep telling children: Poetry comes out of life.

No, I wouldn’t say it was hard. But, it was a process. A poem rarely comes whole and completely dressed. As a rule, it comes in bits and pieces.

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You get an impression of something, and you begin, feebly, to put these impressions and feelings and those things which seem so common and handle-able — into words. And you flail and you falter and you shift and you shake, and finally, you come forth with the first draft. Then, if you’re myself and if you’re like many of the poets that I know, you revise, and you revise. And often the finished product is nothing like 6 your first draft. Sometimes it is. Did you have to read a lot to become a better writer? Oh, absolutely. Son, writing is a delicious agony. Reading is important. Books are meat and medicine and flame and flight and flower. They are steel, stitch, cloud and drumbeats on the air. If it wasn’t for my parents placing the books on my desk at a young age, I wouldn’t have gotten the foundation that I needed to be a better writer, but you must always read between the lines and see what they don’t want you to see. A writer should get as much education as possible, but not just going to school. That is not enough. If it were, all owners of doctorates would be inspired writers. 7

Wow. That’s deep. We admire the beauty of it, no matter what. You are absolutely correct. Are there any last words of advice you can give to us before you go? Before I go—again? <chuckles> <Wide smile> Yes, ma’am. I think there is something for all of you to do, as long as you’re here and healthy. Like you, young man, you are doing a great thing. But, don’t stop at this. Use everything you have. Exhaust the little moment because soon, it dies and it will not come again. Live and do not desire to fit in. Desire to oblige yourself— to lead.

What was something that pained you, as a poet? The things that we accepted, as black people. I grew to understand how offense the word ‘minority’ was, in reference to cultures. Don’t let anyone call you a minority if you’re black or Hispanic or belong to some other ethic group. You’re not less than anybody else. But, we accepted that word and, as you read in Beverly Hills, Chicago, it was saddening. It still is. We don’t ask a flower any special reason for it’s existence. We just look at it and are able to accept it as being something different from ourselves.

"Do not desire to fit in. Desire to oblige yourself-- to lead. "

1.Gwendolyn Brooks, Part 1– 1972 2.Update on Part One: An Interview with Gwendolyn Brooks,” with Gloria T. Hull and Posey Gallagher, 1977 3.Interview with Gwendolyn Brooks, TriQuarterly 60, Spring/Summer 1984 4.Interview with Gwendolyn Brooks, broadcast on “New Letters in the Air,” November, 1988

5.Update on Part One: An Interview with Gwendolyn Brooks,” with Gloria T. Hull and Posey Gallagher, 1977 6.Interview with Gwendolyn Brooks, from In the Memory and Spirit of Frances, Zora, and Lorraine: Essays and Interviews on Black Women and Writing, ed. by Juliette Bowles, 1979 7Inspiringquotes.us

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Kayah Alexandra Gwendolyn Brooks 1) In January 2020 Kayah posted 6 images that together equaled one photo. You will see the smile but… what color was her shirt? a) Black b) Green c) Orange d) White 2) Which is a title of a video you can find on Kayah’s IG page? a) Golden Minute b) Don’t Rush Challenge c) For Women Too d) Call Back Chronicles Remixed 3) You can visit her website at www.kayahalexandra.net to check all the incredible things Kayah has done in theater, movies, commercials, dance, stage and more. (#FACTS or FALSE) 4) When Kayah appeared in the commercial for Life Time Fitness she acted as the…? a) Personal Trainer b) Soccer Mom c) Spectator d) Athlete 5) “Self-love doesn’t go out of season, baby.” Was the caption for a post that inspired how many hearts on Instagram? a) 175 b) 304 c) 98 d) 249 6) Kayah Franklin is not only an amazing choreographer and more, she is also the co-host of what show? a) Whispers Cries and Poetry b) Doing It My Way c) So You Want To Dance d) Crazy Ass Dates

1) Which nickname was used for Gwendolyn Brooks? a) Gwen Gwen b) Gwendie c) Ms. Brooks d) Poetic Soul 2) Which US president invited her to be a guest and read at a Library of Congressfestival? a) Lincoln b) Obama c) Kennedy d) Carterl 3) Gwendolyn’s very first poem was actually published in a children’s magazine when she was just 9 years old! (#FACTS or FALSE) 4) Which is NOT a Gwendolyn Brooks book title…? a) We Are Shining b) BLACKS c) The Bean EATers d) A Street In Goldville 5) Gwendolyn Brooks was born on a Thursday 6/7/1917 (#FACTS or FALSE) 6) Gwendolyn Brooks was the Poet Laureate of which state? a) Texas b) New York c) Washington d) Illinoise 7) Annie Allen is a collection of poems about a young black girl’s perspective and experiences growing into womanhood. This book of poetry won Gwendolyn the…? a) Author’s FirePen Award b) American Writer’s Award c) Pulitzer Prize for Poetry c) Brave New Voices in Poetry Award The ink Magazine

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Spilled Ink

"Woke Speech"

by R.Sen the Poet

Bowing my head in a degree of mystery Reviewing humankind and its history I’m Upset Thinking of all the injustices I shake my head Woke people Now broke people The world is dead Turn on the news to watch these discussions I’m disgusted I don’t know how to feel Are we too blessed to be stressed Hatred, violence, war-It’s confusing Or too stressed to be blessed One love, One world, One life? Did we forget? It’s an issue To fix it, rest assured, we’ll need more than a tissue Quit abusing Prayers and thoughts Life Goes on until it won’t Don’t bring back lives lost Why live yours doing nothing to gloat Only actions Can cause a stir great enough for proactive reaction Pride isn’t a right, You earn it Behaviors only paid attention to when extreme Go out and do something to get it with Then blown off as a “troubled individual”- I could SCREAM People do nothing and get incarcerated Pay attention, the people are speaking Just thrown in prison because they’re hated Line up, file up, the problems are peaking When did the justice become a disposal system When people given the power of leaders do it with no spine When did we lose hope in people and start How can the world not operate in crime blaming the victim Time for the people to take back the power I’m unwell Make these so called leaders cower Thinking about this hell It can’t be real Silence them as they peer from their tower Too unequal a deal And show them how to truly operate using brainpower When did we start living in world where a child That’s the mission goes to school and packs a Time to take a position bulletproof vest? No more time to assess the condition When did we come to a point of such civil No more space for indecision unrest? Only space for precision Let’s stop this bullshit addiction How did we come to a point where we ignore And spread love and equality like a religion the depressed, to the point they Cut this toxicity off like a circumcision shoot a gun to their heart just to get something A new Day has Risen I hope I don’t sound too gruff off their chest? sounding off on these situations so tough It’s Unreal inactivity on these issues made it rough and quite frankly, I have had enough

@RDotson

The ink Magazine

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Spilled Ink

"11 Mile Hike"

by Sarah Jamie Johnson

When I close my eyes I can see his silhouette Dim lights bounce off his soft skin Reflecting the shadows of his sturdy frame He stands there, Just there alone Looking at me I want to tell him Just how much he excites me Standing there Just there alone But I wait I canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t look at him anymore So I turn away and lay down Even his scent is here Lingering on the sheets Chasing away any doubts with A single whiff of him His scent alone takes me to places Indescribability and yet yearning to visit again Then a touch And with that touch His touchâ&#x20AC;Ś Anywhere I begin my climb again

simplysarahjustjamie

The ink Magazine

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KAYAH ALEXANDRA

What type of things do you do on your day off? I am a movie buff. I love to watch those movies that nobody has heard of that are, you know, abandoned in the DVD section of some of these stores or like in the barrel of a streaming services library.

So you're at the bottom of the Netflix barrel to see what's down there. Yeah, I don't click on the recommended movies right away Do you have a favorite movie or show to watch? My favorite show to watch is Law and Order Special Victims Unit. I think that takes the cake.

Photo by Kory Williams.

The SpokenWord artist. The Actress. The Dancer. The Light.. The KaleidoscopeÂ

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They always play that show. I used to love it a few years ago. Yeah, it's always a marathon. I love the writing. Unfortunately a lot of those stories are too close to reality, but I love the way the show is written and I love the acting. I just admire the entire production of that show. So, as an actress, is it hard for you to sit and watch a show? Because I know that you are probably studying the actors and actresses, so it can become like work. Um, I think it's a good balance of both. But, I have to catch myself sometimes. I'll literally pause a movie or a show because I realize I'm studying and not watching for enjoyment. I love enjoying good work, but the minute I feel like I can only study from an actor's perspective, I'll turn it off. At that moment, that's not what it's purpose is, you know what I mean? Those were actress BARS right there. <laughing> So, you started out in Sacramento, California. How did you end up in Texas? I grew up in Sacramento, but I'm going to give you the shorter version. I visited my father, the summer going into my senior year of high school. He moved to DC and that is where he was operating his business. He had to get my mom on board with me moving out there for good after high school, so he catered to what I was doing. I had recently taken up dance and I was dancing on my high school dance team and he told my mom that he would put me in a dance program if she let me come out there to D.C. for the summer.

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 / THE INK MAGAZINE /

Yeah, you gotta have that mindset. Those opportunities had my name on them. How influential was Howard in shaping who you are today?

Dallas, TX

So, my mom checked with me and I ended up visiting him for a couple of months. He took me around different schools and that's how I got exposed to Howard. I ended up going to Howard for dance. And during my time there, one of my favorite dance companies was based in Dallas, Texas. And so by the time I graduated, I knew I had to dance for Dallas Black dance theater. So I came out here with a couple of suitcases and without a job secured. I still had to go through the formal audition process, but yeah, I came out here and thought I'd only be in Texas for a couple of weeks or a couple of years rather, but I'm going on a little over eight years now.

Were you nervous? Yeah, I was nervous. I was hopeful. You know what I mean? I had a relationship with the dance company already, but I still hadn't signed any kind of paperwork. I didn't even make the main company or, the starting lineup, if you will. I made the second company, but consequently, I was offered a job within the Academy. I taught outreach dance classes and things of that nature. So I was grateful for the opportunity because I didn't have a backup plan. For me, plan A was plan B.

I like to say that my feet were planted in the soil of Sacramento and Howard really gave me that nutrient rich sunshine and water. So, Howard was a major influence on my life. Obviously, you know, a lot of people know about the social experiences of a Historically Black College University (HBCU), but when it came to my craft and my artistry, at the time that I was there, Howard was the only HBCU where you could get a BFA in dance-- and the woman that founded the program, Dr. Sherrill BerrymanJohnson. To this day, she is the most intimidating person that I've ever met. Her philosophy on how to approach dance, along with the standard that was maintained in several different departments at Howard was like: you have completely break yourself down to the roots to build yourself up and grow further than you could imagine. So that mindset was instilled in me while I was at Howard. And that's what I've been really running off of ever since.

You went into it with no other options. So, it had to work out.

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So I know you are multi-talented-- acting, dancing, spokenword and even rapping a little bit. I saw that post on Instagram a while back. So, which one of them is your first love? <deep breath> I would probably say writing, like SpokenWord. If we go back to the first thing that I enjoyed doing and was recognized for doing relatively well, then it's gotta be poetry. You know? I wrote a lot. I always liked to write and I've always enjoyed writing. I remember in middle school, I got a writing assignment in my social studies class. I'll never forget. We spent six class periods watching roots. And then we had to do a one page paper on the experience. I was like, wait, just one page? <laughing> But, that's the first time I really remember writing something where I felt like I was pouring my soul onto the page. I didn't have that great of a vocabulary. I wasn't really versed in how to organize my thoughts quite yet. But I remember that feeling of having that assignment and trying to put all of what I was feeling and all of what I was thinking on paper. It was a great feeling, so yeah, I would say my first love was writing. Also, there was a restaurant called Sweet Fingers. I'm not sure if it's there anymore, but it was outside of downtown Sacramento. They held the first open mic that I attended. My mom would take me like every other week and I started performing and I did a couple of slams, so, long story short, writing and poetry was my first love. That's cool that your mom was taking you to the open mics and stuff when you were younger. Was she a poet?

Uh, my mother was not a poet per se. Not formally. She wasn't going to open mics and that kind of stuff, but my mother was definitely an artist. Like, she definitely knew the power of words and vision. Her professional background was in marketing. But, she was an artist, not in a public or performative sense, but she was definitely an artist.

Writing and poetry was my first love. Did your writing transition into poetry or did you just start off writing poems? It transitioned into poetry. Once I started reading more and getting exposed to other versions of people's writings, I was influenced a lot more. But, I listened to music to help me write and I think that's why, to this day, I'll still have music playing in the background when I write. Rhythm definitely influences me and it helps guide my words. When did you start considering yourself a poet? I think it was my senior year in high school when I won a poetry slam competition at one of the libraries near my house. The first place winner received $75 and for me, back then, that was a lot of money. My mom was the one that found out about the slam.

The ink Magazine

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What kind of topics did you write about then, vs now? I feel like it's the same stuff. I still have my notebooks from high school. I wrote about heartbreak and things like that. I wasn't experiencing nothing compared to where I'm at now, but I feel like I've always been kind of writing about the same things because my process in dealing with my emotions hasn't changed that much. I've progressed as a woman, but the kind of highs and lows and the way I process things hasn't changed that much. So, did spoken word prepare you for acting or was it vice versa? I think spokenword definitely prepared me for acting--just because they're your words. You can't deliver them the same way for everyone in the room to hear you. If that makes sense. For example, if you feel angry and you really need to talk your stuff with a piece that you wrote and you know that you're going to perform it at an open mic or on any kind of platform: You know somebody else is going to be able to feel it. So, you're going to put emotions in that poem so they can feel the full weight of what you wrote. That takes a lot of strength, you know what I mean? We're raw, we're unedited, we're naked with our thoughts. I think that vulnerability has helped me perform, not only my work in the acting space, but the writing of others in script form- with a sense of vulnerability so that other people can feel it. Did you have to work on being comfortable with that vulnerability? She saw the clip in the newspaper that asked for submissions. She asked me if I wanted to do it and I told her I did. The first round was just submitting something to the judges and they'd read it and chose finalists. And then the next round, we performed. And then shortly after that, me and my mom started going to Sweet Fingers regularly.

Definitely. I think it's an everyday journey to be more vulnerable while still protecting yourself-- like the elements of yourself that you need to stay true to.

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We're raw. We're unedited. We're naked with our thoughts. 20


Do you think there are any similarities between acting and performing?

Yeah. Dallas Slam

It's actually funny because when I came out to Texas and spent that Yeah, definitely. I think the summer going through the whole number one thing is you audition process to join the can't come half-ass. You can't Dallas Black organization, I hold anything back because if wasn't making any money. I was you do, you're cutting yourself staying with a family member, short and you're also cutting but you know, after a couple of your audience short. You're weeks, it's like, 'ok, I need to cutting their experience short, make some money.' So, I started rather. So I think that's the working at heroes as a server and number one similarity because, that's how I found out about whether it's acting, writing, Dallas poetry slam. I didn't even performing spokenword or know they had an open mic, you dancing, all of it is art. We're know? I just stumbled on it and performing artists and artists are the restaurant was the perfect living, breathing, things. We're place for me to be. So, I fell in love not meant to hold back. with it from there. Obviously I stopped working there once I I saw you at Black Canvas a secured my job with Dallas Black. while back. I think that's But, I kept on going to Heroes. I when I connected with you on got love for Black Canvas, but I social media, but do you have think that space at heroes was a favorite place to go out and probably my favorite spot. perform? I know you're career So, when it comes to acting, takes you on flights around what's the grind like? Because the nation, so you probably you've been in countless have many options. commercials, you've been in Yeah, I've been fortunate enough HBO series, and everything. to jump around and work in different spaces, but I definitely found a home at black canvas. That's the most consistent space I've gotten to perform, especially as an adult here in Texas. Black Canvas is one of my favorite places. But, before Black Canvas, I used to love going to Heroes Lounge. Do you remember Heroes?

It's studying like, you know, we watch movies or go to musicals or plays and things and we're just like, 'Oh, that is so cool. They're doing so well. They're so good at what they do.' But, a majority of the grind is stuff that people will never see. The emotional rollercoaster of just studying two pages of material for a character so you can really get under their skin and become them for an audition. And that's just one

audition of the five we want to knock out today. It's very taxing and it's not just studying the characters you have to portray. There's so many different methods and techniques when it comes to acting. I call myself a baby (in acting) because I'm just now starting my formal acting training. I'm taking classes and I'm studying the different techniques and methodology, but you know, there are people that have been studying the art of acting for over a decade. So the grind is something serious and I will not take any credit. I'm just a baby in it. I'm going to be a full grown woman, but I'm just a baby right now. I went to your website and I saw your resume. To me, you've done A LOT, but to say you're just a baby right now says a lot about your humility. I think it's the equivalent of, uh, well, maybe it's not equivalent, but if you know that you want to... <gathers thoughts> Some people who enjoy poetry and they've written out two or three pieces, but they've never performed or shared their poetry with anyone. I would call them a baby. They're very true to the art form because they're writing from the heart, but it's from, you know, writing maybe once every few months and then tucking your poem under your pillow and not letting the world see it. That's compared to being a full grown,

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THE INK MAGAZINE| THE ARTS

seasoned performer-- like, something you would've seen on Def Poetry or something like that. There's a huge journey that takes place between those two spaces and then some. So, right now, especially in the midst of the pandemic, I've been very grateful, but I've done musical theater and I've done a lot of commercial and industrial work. And at this point I'm taking one step at a time to break through more into television and film. When I see you on your Instagram stories, I see how versatile you are as an actress. Or, the potential you have. You're mimicking this accent and that accent. It almost seems natural, you know? Is that something that you had to work on or was it just there? I wish I could say that I've studied the dialect for years and that is something that I've finally been able to master, but nah. A lot of the stuff that you'll see on social media, I've been playing around like that since I was four years old. I've always liked to make people laugh if I can. That's kind of one of my coping mechanisms when it comes to trauma and awkward moments and all of that. But, I do enjoy studying people. So even though it's not formal study, I study everyone that I encounter, whether it's in person on the phone, watching them and what they do. I like to take pieces of people and kind of put them in my bank so that I can pull from them if and when I need them later on down the line. As talented as you are, I know you don't get every part you audition for. How, how do you handle that? I don't. <brief pause> So, let me explain it. Over the past year, a majority of my auditions have been on zoom or in the form of self-tape where I'm literally performing in front of my backdrop in my living room, you know, and sending off the final version of my audition to the casting director. Once I have submitted my audition or once I've had that zoom audition, I do my best to completely delete it from my brain. I do not like to stalk my email or

Photo by Xavier Mack

phone, wondering if they reached out to me again or if they opened the unlisted YouTube link to watch my audition. I've tried that before and the times that I didn't get booked for something, or I didn't get a role, if we're going back into dance stuff, I'd be devastated. And it would take me a long time to get out of that sad place, that kind of borderline depressed space. Cause you start questioning, well, why didn't they like me? You take it real personal, but I think that as I've transitioned into doing more acting, that was one of the first things I had to stop doing. It's like, if I know that I'm putting my best foot forward and I'm giving you my best rendition of this character you've given me,

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THE INK MAGAZINE| DOPENESS

then I'll live with the outcome. My job to bring it (the character) to life, to explore it and to send it back to them at its fullest potential. But once I've done my part, that's it. For me, that approach makes the burn less hurtful, if that makes any sense. So when it comes to dealing with someone giving me a no or a dismissal or a rejection, it's fine. Like at that point I'm already focused on the next thing that I'm going to submit for. I submit and forget. I got an email for a role in a production that they actually paused production for, that I submitted for in January of 2020. So it's been a year and that's how the gentleman started off the email. Like, 'hi Kayah, I'm reaching out because you submitted for (this role) and blah blah blah. And like I said, I submit and forget, so I had to think about what I submitted for. In the meantime, he went through this whole thing of how, you know, they had to pause production and this and that and asked if I was still interested in 'the role. I was like, "uh, yeah!'. <laughing> Yeah, you never know what to expect, so it's easier and healthier to just eliminate expectations. Would you rather express yourself through dance or through spoken word? <long pause> Did I stump you? <laughing> It's a tough question! But I have a list, you know, because there are some things, and I'm speaking from experience, there are some things I could never, ever explain how I feel with words. I've experienced that, like being able to perform something solo. There is a piece called "Essence" by Christopher Huggins, which is one of the most emotional performances or pieces that I've ever gotten to perform when it comes to dance. All of what I have felt in those rehearsals and the performance of that work, I could never get into my own words. And this is a piece that I didn't even choreograph. But, on the other hand, I know that there are many situations, many thoughts that I have that I don't know where to start with my body to get them out. You know, because you think about our words, our voices, it's not just the words, it's how we say them as well. That applies to dance, too, but I don't know. Yeah, I don't know if I can choose.

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THE INK MAGAZINE | SPOKENWORD

What can we expect from Kayah in the coming months or years?

Would you rather choreograph a music video or perform spokenword in front of 1,000 people? Oh, good Lord. Um, honestly I might say choreograph only because if it's the right artist and the right song that I can bring a vision to, I would love to have that position. It's almost like the equivalent to being able to create movement for your favorite poem. You know, again, it depends on the artist because there are some songs I would love to do. Like if Erykah Badu called me up tomorrow, directly, even if it's not directly--but she called me up and said, 'Hey, I want to do a visual for orange moon'. I would drop everything that I was doing to choreograph a visual for that song.

Well, I'm working on a bigger project that I'm not allowed to talk about--and, I mean, THAT'S exciting cause I've never really been a part of something that I couldn't talk about. But, outside of that, I've got some more commercials that are being produced between Dallas, Austin and LA. So I'll be bouncing around safely quite a bit over the next couple of months. And I'm writing. Before the summertime, I would love to see my mini screen play come to life, at least as a virtual table read or something. I'm letting my writing transition into things that can be seen on the screen. So we'll see how that goes.

IF ERYKAH BADU CALLED ME TO DO A VISUAL FOR 'ORANGE MOON', I'D DROP EVERYTHING. KAYAH ALEXANDRA

So when it's all said and done, how do you want to be remembered? <long pause> As light. As someone who consistently brought light to people that needed it. I won't even say to darkness, but I just want to be remembered as love and as light, nothing less than that.

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DOPENESS

IJUST WANT TO BE REMEMBERED AS LOVE AND AS LIGHT. NOTHING LESS THAN THAT. KAYAH ALEXANDRA


Profile for The ink Magazine

The ink Magazine (January)  

In this issue, we interview the multi-talented spokenword artist, Kayah Alexandra. We head to New York and interview JRose, creator of the J...

The ink Magazine (January)  

In this issue, we interview the multi-talented spokenword artist, Kayah Alexandra. We head to New York and interview JRose, creator of the J...

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