MEMPHIS, Tenn. – An award-winning lineup of spoken word artists is featured at the Poetry Symposium 4 p.m. Aug. 17 and Drop the Mic Slam 4 p.m. Aug. 18 at the National Civil Rights Museum. Both events are free and open to the public and are designed to stimulate youth participation in modern community dialogue and grassroots activism centered on the social justice legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
This year’s Drop the Mic events are centered around the theme “Freedom Forward” and challenges artists to go beyond identifying issues, using their gifts to enlighten, educate and inspire the audience to move. The goal is to have participants connect with other artists while exploring the reward that self-expression brings in determining one’s self-worth, examining relevant issues and developing solutions individually and collectively.
This year’s Drop the Mic Slam and Symposium will feature appearances by J. Ivy, the Chicago-based poet, actor and activist, who rose to fame after appearing on Russell Simmons’ HBO Def Poetry. He was featured on a classic hit with Jay-Z and Kanye, shared the stage with Common, Jill Scott, Deepak Chopra, Lauryn Hill, Mos Def and Erykah Badu, and collaborated with John Legend, Marsha Ambrosia and Slum Village. He has since appeared in, or has been the voice of, corporate and TV network promotions including productions for BET, ESPN and NBC. J. Ivy has a passion for healing the community through his Dear Father Letters campaign where he encourages children and adults to confront the pain of growing up without a father and to embrace the forgiving catharsis that writing offers to prevent a generational cycle of hurt and brokenness.
A MasterClass entitled “Fine Art of Being an Artist,” and a workshop on what it takes to become a full-time writer/artist by Ed Mabrey will kick off the Drop the Mic events during the Symposium. Emmy-winner and four-time Individual World Poetry Slam Champion, Mabrey has more than 20 years of teaching experience, performed at more than 200 schools from K-12 to universities around the country. Through reflection of his career, Mabrey will share the steps he took to achieve his career goals. He will also perform at the Slam for the third year.
In addition, symposium features workshops led by notable artists such as Bethsheba “Queen Sheba” Rem, Jasmine Mans, Jonathan “Samuel Eddie” Perkins, and Mackenzie Berry. Workshops are constructed along four tracks – Activism, Youth, Technique, and Business – and encompass a comprehensive range of topics including ways to use art to spark conversation and action in underrepresented communities, understanding technique and various forms of poetry, and how to build a brand and generate revenue. The workshops are open to anyone who wants to enhance their creativity and engagement as a poet, spoken word artist or community activist.
The Symposium will also include a Panel Discussion that will allow attendees to connect with artists about turning an art form into a mechanism for action. J. Ivy’s special keynote address leads into the Symposium’s final session, the Open Mic, which will include a variety of performances from the day’s participants - the pros and the amateurs.
The Drop the Mic Poetry Slam is a showcase of young artists presenting their original poems based on the “Freedom Forward” theme. Participants, ranging in age from 14 to 35, were selected from a pool of applicants and will compete for first, second and third place in three age categories (14-17, 18-25, and 26-35) before a panel of judges for cash prizes up to $1,500. There is an (Art)ivist Marketplace for guests to engage with featured artists to purchase books and merchandise related to their art.
The Slam’s host is Queen Sheba, a spoken word artist, activist, motivational speaker, teacher, author, comedian, playwright and founder of Poetry vs. Hip-Hop, a nationally-touring stage show. She has two books, six albums, two of which were Grammy-nominated in the Spoken Word category, and she is a two-time NAACP Image Award Nominee. With a master’s degree in poetry from Queens University, she has conducted performances and workshops at over 200 colleges and universities nationally and abroad. She tours internationally in her one-woman comedy show, My Thoughts Out Loud.
Other featured performers at the slam include classically-trained poet and workshop facilitator, Jasmine Mans, along with Memphian and 2017 Drop the Mic Poetry Slam Champion Carin “Writeous Soul” Malone, and Nashville-based spoken word trio, Writers’ Block.
Attendees are encouraged to share comments and photos on social media using the hashtags #NCRMDropTheMic and #FreedomForward.
For more information, visit www.civilrightsmuseum.org.
About the National Civil Rights Museum
The National Civil Rights Museum, located at the historic Lorraine Motel where civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, gives a comprehensive overview of the American Civil Rights Movement from 1619 to the present. In 2018, the museum has lead the global MLK50 commemoration of Dr. King’s assassination 50 years ago, with focus on issues he was fighting then and are still prevalent now. Since the Museum opened in 1991, millions of visitors from around the world have come, including more than 90,000 students annually. Serving as the new public square, the museum is steadfast in its mission to chronicle the American civil rights movement, examine today’s global civil and human rights issues, provoke thoughtful debate and serve as a catalyst for positive social change.
A Smithsonian Affiliate and an internationally acclaimed cultural institution, the museum was recognized as TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Top 5% U.S. Museum, USA Today's Top 10 Best American Iconic Attractions; Top 10 Best Historical Spots in the U.S. by TLC's Family Travel; Must See by the Age of 15 by Budget Travel and Kids; Top 10, American Treasures by USA Today; and Best Memphis Attraction by The Commercial Appeal and the Memphis Business Journal.
About Smithsonian Affiliations
Established in 1996, Smithsonian Affiliations is a national outreach program that develops long-term collaborative partnerships with museums and educational and cultural organizations to enrich communities with Smithsonian resources. The long-term goal of Smithsonian Affiliations is to facilitate a two-way relationship among the Affiliate organizations and the Smithsonian Institution to increase discovery and inspire lifelong learning in communities across America. More information about the Smithsonian Affiliations program and Affiliate activity is available at www.affiliations.si.edu.
National Civil Rights Museum
901 527-1225 office
901 331-5460 cell
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