Smuggling Poetry Across Boarders

I have a confession to make:
In one of my earliest days as a
spoken word performer, I smuggled
poems across the boarder to Canada.
I told a white lie to get in, those words
needed a stage, freedom.

That was the beginning: knowing the
poems I was penning were taking
me across interstate lines was the
most ultimate of times, of times.

Lines on paper traveling on buses
and airplanes to arrive to be unpacked,
spoken, or slightly rapped.

Sacred Woman, I took her to Washington, DC
with me; I Met Her at A Book Store, we went to the
Memphis Black Writers Conference & Film Festival;
Word Warrior, we cruised out to Chicago to the
Chicago Poetry Festival; She has Breast Cancer
has traveled with me to Cornell University.

These are poems with miles on them – frequent
flyer miles where they received applause, praise, smiles.

They are packed, packaged, unpacked. Poems, rhymes,
rhythms, raps packed, packaged, unpacked.

Poems, rhymes, rhythms, raps
Tucked neatly inside of my bags. Traveling
vocab. Traveling vocab.

They’ve helped me develop a following
and a name. Poetry written, but born to be
wild. Experiencing long bus rides, just as
tired and worn as I am. Just as tired and
worn as I am.

I open the bag, then let them breathe. They
have come to achieve. Been places you
wouldn’t believe. Smuggled consistently
ready to please.

Happy to satisfy, especially after they’ve
been requested or ordered, are the poems
of mines smuggled across boarders.

© Christopher D. Sims
March 7th, 2013

Cool Christopher wearing A Cap

Listen to a recording of this poem with music here: https://soundcloud.com/universoulove/smuggling-poetry-across-1?in=universoulove/sets/internacional-sounds-words

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Words and Water: Katrina Ten Years Later – a poem by Christopher D. Sims

Neighborhoods-Sunrise-9th-Ward1

This poem formed, brewed inside of me
Like you did Katrina before the levees broke
As you rushed forcefully, undeniably
into New Orleans.

This storm of words inside me took
their time. They aligned with thoughts, feelings,
emotions, tears, devastation, loss.

So many lost everything: lost family; lost pets;
lost homes; lost a sense of belonging; lost their
ability to return home.

This is jazz and blues for the displaced; the
people who were called refugees. Easy, no
the rebirth of New Orleans has not been.

Gentrification has pushed the poor out. Young
Black men cannot find jobs. Isn’t it odd
That the people who created the culture, the dance,
the music are not benefiting financially?

Katrina’s wrath can still be felt ten years later.

These words are brewing still. My memory
takes me to images of bodies floating in high
waters, to the eyes of the distressed, the shocked,
to a president’s response that was too little and too late.

I wait.

I wade in rivers of words.

I listen to spirit and sound.

I remember Katrina rushing through the Lower 9th.

It’s been a struggle to arrive at these ten years.
These words are the Mississippi in the form of tears.

© Christopher D. Sims
 August 27, 2015

Remembering Michael Brown – A Poem by Christopher D. Sims

Four and a half hours your body laid there
flat on hot summer concrete untouched, unmoved,
not cared for. Your people in  Ferguson started
crying and fighting back, fighting back and crying.

Dying harshly seems to be young Black men’s plight.

Death knows our name all too well. It’s either death
or jail and prison cells.

Your tragic story is all too commonplace in the thick of
the hate and inequality of the United States.

We are remembering you Michael. We are remembering
the lies, the pain, the struggle, the voices that followed
in those Ferguson streets. We have yet to find justice and
peace.

It’s been a year but it feels like yesterday that your death
sparked an uprising; a resistance; a movement; movement
building. Black Lives Matter is not yielding!

I’ve remembered you in marches since then in St. Louis,
New York,  Illinois, and New Jersey. Marching with the
masses in what is a state of emergency.

We breathe the horrible air of American injustice that you
won’t ever again. We are fighting, igniting, engaging, and
conversing about race. We are taking over space after space
to be heard.

And the name Mike Brown sits proudly our tongues as we
fight and fight until we have won. Until we have won.

I am remembering you lost soldier who died with your hands
up in submission. Because of what happened to you, we are
making sure the world listens.

Copyright Christopher D. Sims
August 10th, 2015

michael-brown

Black Man Down – A Poem by Christopher D. Sims

Black man down
His blood is spilling out on the ground
The Universe makes another sad sound

The Universe makes another sad sound
His blood is spilling out on the ground
Black man down

Down in the dumps
Down Black man slumps in the ghettos of the States
Black man down, how many of you can relate?

Black man down

Down on his luck
Who will help him?
Who can he trust?

Black man down
Black man isn’t up
When Black man is down
The Black man will erupt, or self destruct.

Black man down
Black man has no job
Black man looks for others to steal from or rob.
Black man has been taught that the dollar is God.

Black man down
His blood is spilling on the ground
The Universe makes another sad sound

Black man down: Trayvon Martin
Black man down: Jordan Davis
Black man down: Eric Garner
Black man down: Michael Brown
Black man down: John Crawford III
Black man down: Tony Robinson

Black man down: Another one just
the other day. His name was Freddie Gray.

Black man down, down, down, down.

© Christopher D. Sims
April 30th, 2015

This art was used for an article written for The New Orleans Times.

This art was used for an article written for The New Orleans Times.

Tales from my Earth Day 2015 Spoken Word Tour

This year’s National Poetry Month (April 2015) and Earth Day has made this my most productive and active month as a spoken word artist.

April is a great month for poets and performers of poetry, especially if you’re actively looking for gigs and looking for opportunities to share your poetry with craving crowds who are either expecting your message, or new to the art form of spoken word.

On Earth Day I went to Madison, WI and shared my environmental justice focused poems “The Return of Earth/She” and one of my latest pieces “Poetry that Protects the Environment.” At Hawthorne Elementary School and Fran Allis Elementary School in Madison, WI I was introduced to captive crowds of fifth grade students who were anticipating my poetry. I had never visited two schools on the same day, let alone two schools in the creative and conscious haven that Madison, WI is.

Earth Day was a great day to share with the students about my environmental justice experience, and for me to share what environmental justice is. Since students are not taught what those things are, it was indeed an educational opportunity. They did not know what those terms meant at Frank Allis Elementary School, but when a teacher asked them did they know what global warming is, most of them threw their hands up. I can imagine them sitting at home with their parents watching the national news and hearing the latest news on global warming and how it’s effecting our planet. It’s important for the future people of this planet to know what’s going on.

At both schools examples were shared about some of the local efforts that they knew of in regards to environmental stewardship. It was great to hear about those actions from the students. They are paying attention to what’s going on and participating in some of those efforts.

They listened intensely to each poem. They had lots of questions as I finished each poem as well. They asked me some great questions. We discussed elements of both poems. It was identified that “The Return of Earth/She” is a metaphorical poem. That I crafted that poem and gave it the essence of a woman. Personifying the earth with a feminine existence. This was an epiphany for me: I hadn’t looked at that particular poem that way. But thinking about it, to give the earth feelings, makes it a more effective poem that youth and adults can relate to. Here is a video version of that poem: 

.

Poetry that Protects the Environment is more direct, not metaphorical piece like “The Return of Earth/She.”

I ended my day at Hawthorne Elementary School with a lot of positive energy with much to look forward to and to appreciate and be thankful for! It’s always an honor to speak with youth and have their attention like I had. It’s always a heart-warming experience. I even signed autographs for the students who were eager to receive them. They will attach my name to an experience the had on Earth Day 2015, which is a very special thing.

I got back home to Rockford after 5 PM that day and went to a live concert that honored and remembered Pete Seeger, and served as fundraiser for JustGoods for their music license. The place was packed with those who definitely remember Pete Seeger’s songs and what he stood for. I settled in, was greeted warmly by people I know and respect from the community, and performed those same pieces with adults this time.

David Stocker, my friend a local musician, backed my poetry with drumming from a djembe drum. It gave my performance an element that didn’t exist in Madison. Combining music and spoken word is one of my favorite things to do. David’s percussive excellence inspired me to recite “The Return of Earth/She” with a rhythm and pace I hadn’t recited it in before. My performances were well-received that night at JustGoods.

Those are my tales, what a magical Earth Day!

The Art of Performance Poetry with A Lively Writer’s Group

Performing spoken word poetry.

Performing spoken word poetry.

Yesterday morning, after an early and fairly quiet drive to Winnetka, Illinois, I went to the Off Campus Writers’ Workshop to be featured with a discussion focused on my ” The Seven Elements of Performance Poetry.” The group was very lively, and interested in what I had to share and to say about my techniques as a seasoned spoken word poet.

I put together a defined workshop that spoke to each element – available as a Word document if you’re interested in viewing it. I was concerned about not having enough material to carry me through, but that quickly vanished when the lively group of seasoned writers and literary enthusiasts began asking me questions about my knowledge of performance poetry and/or Slam poetry.

The questions carried us through most of the first half of our electric conversation. I am glad that I have been performing as long as I have, and was prepared with a memory of what it takes to be a performance poet. The questions they asked kept me on my toes!

I learned of the Off Campus Writers’ Workshop through a local poet’s husband during a conversation we had at an event where his visual art was on display, and where her and my poetry was featured in a live reading in downtown Rockford. I remembered the name of the group and went home and found their website. I reached out to them expressing my interest in being a presenter. I shared what I could present and it was accepted.

The Seven Elements of Performance Poetry is my go to workshop for highlighting my tactics as a spoken word poet on stage. It consists of pieces of knowledge and information that I feel will help any poet seeking to become a performance poet – which, as I explained to the Off Campus Writers’ Workshop group, is taking written poetry to the stage.

The group consisted mostly of women who listened intensely and made sure they asked the right questions. Performance poetry is not simple, and I believe only the brave poets want to take their writing to the level of performing and reciting it.

I have been performing since the late 90s as a spoken word artist. My early start was in Memphis, TN at the former Sidewalk University in midtown Memphis. I remember that first experience like it was yesterday. Going to an open mike to share my poetry live was something I had never done. It was a new genre for me. Although I had performed as a budding rapper at my elementary school in the mid 80s, there was something different about reciting poetry to a group of people I didn’t know. Later on, after learning about the weekly open mike at the former Precious Cargo in downtown Memphis, I become hooked and haven’t looked back since.

Years later, here I am in Winnetka, Illinois at the Off Campus Writers’ Workshop sharing what I have learned all of these years. I have come full circle as a spoken word poet. I am glad I had the opportunity to showcase that there with that lively and kindred group of writers and literary enthusiasts!

I hope to get back there some time, even if it is just to listen to them and learn about what they are doing with their writing. Happy National Poetry Month! May the muse be with you!

The Life of a Bullet Entering Black and Brown Flesh – A Poem by Christopher D. Sims

That bullet, that dreadful, heartless bullet
started off in a racist southerner’s rifle
p
ointed at a runaway slave, who was
on the run. Entering his chest cavity, it
had nothing to stop it. That bullet was
dipped in hatred and steeped in envy:
a bullet whose soul was empty, empty.

That bullet, that dreadful, heartless bullet
found its way up north inside the gun of
a police officer patrolling the south side of
Chicago. Still filled with hatred, not a moment
was wasted, before it found itself tearing through
the flesh of a young black male. Sending him
to “hell”, as the cop suggested. He wasn’t
even arrested. The community was restless –
wondering where the bullet would end up next.

That bullet, that dreadful, heartless bullet,
wound up in Oakland, California years later
chasing after brown flesh. Angrily traveling
through barrios searching for more flesh to
puncture. Inside the 45 of a bigot inflamed
by “illegal immigration”, that bullet cut down
a young brown girl, cutting down a nation.

Bullets have no feelings, care about no one’s
name or humanity.

Bullets take orders, are sent to create pain.

The pain that is with us now as we remember
countless faces who are the victims of the
heartlessness behind those bullets that are
finding their way into innocent flesh.

Where will the bullet end up next?

Where will the bullet end up next?

© Christopher D. Sims
2014

Bullets Image 

 

 

A Music Review 27 Years In The Making: Steady B’s “What’s My Name”

I started listening to rap/hip-hop music in the early 80s, shortly after my older brothers introduced my twin and I to the New York birthed art form. Those early 80s were great times for young black and brown women and men who witnessed the early stages of a culture that has grown exponentially since then. Rap was mesmerizing, and that’s exactly what it was for me before I was even a teenager.

Steady B’s classic “What’s My Name” was one of the first rap recordings that turned me into a big fan and addict of rhythms and sounds that have their roots in the musicality of the African diaspora. I had the album, a 78 inch vinyl, that I played on a daily basis for months. Steady B is one of those lyrical legends that you hear about on the underground and early rap scene. He established himself early on with this second project.

Steady B is a Philadelphia native who is a pioneer of the early rap sound that Philadelphia is known for.

My favorite track on the album is the title track, “What’s My Name.” He rhymes “Steady B yeah you got it right/The MC, master of the ceremony tonight.” With passion and a beat that will quickly make your head nod, the track takes you to a place where purists of rap have sought quality lyricism and beats that give an emcee’s rhyme the power that they need. “What’s My Name” reminds me of Nas’ classic “It Ain’t Hard To Tell” – lyrical prowess that you can only get from those who have proven themselves, and show a natural talent at rhyming and emceeing.

Steady B wrote and recorded “I’ll Take Your Radio.” An early diss track that was aimed at LL Cool J. This track helped put him on the map and solidify him as an emcee to be reckoned with.

“What’s My Name is the quintessential rap album that “rap heads” love, and once they re-examine it, they give it its just props. Every beat on the album is done well and the scratching by DJ Tat Money is exactly what you’re looking for in an early rap album. Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince’s early sound come out of this Philadelphia tradition of precise rap lyrics and cutting and scratching that is superb.

“Use Me” is my second favorite track on the album. It’s a smooth rap track that has a sample in it from an early R&B song. It’s probably one of the earliest rap tracks that featured a sample from

an R&B song. DJ Tat Money’s best scratching is found in this song. I can listen to this track over and over.

“Funky Drummer” is another pounding track with Steady B flowing over live drums. This was a great idea. Live drums and a rapper go together well if it’s done right. Steady B had no problem making it work!

When I want to go to a quality rap album that takes me back to the music I fell in love with as a child, “What’s My Name” is an album that I can go to and be satisfied. I recommend this album to any youth who wants to find the best in early rap music. For upcoming lyricists and rappers, Steady B can be a guiding force showing you how it’s supposed to be done. I would say the same for DJ Tat Money. He’s a deejay who is masterful and talented at what he does. “What’s My Name” will show you that.

Long live Rap and the culture we call Hip-Hop

What's My Name Album Cover

Social Justice and Creativity: My New Studio Project

I am returning to the music scene with a new album entitled “serious FUN.” There’s a time to be serious and there’s a time to have fun is the album’s concept and meaning. This new project finds me digging back into my roots as a lyrical rapper and leaning on my talent as a spoken word poet. I have teamed up with Independent Ear, Inc. to make this new album a reality.

The new project focuses on social justice issues, such as the water rights fight that took place in Detroit, MI this year. I also focus on the situation of black men in the United States with poetry that is gripping and moving. As a creative person, and someone who focuses on human rights issues, it was a must that I used the platform to talk about the reality of black life here in the United States on my new album.

I wanted this new project to have that feel. I wanted it to have a balance with seriousness and having some fun at the same time. I hope that I have accomplished that with this new project!

I enjoyed getting back to creative wordplay – challenging myself with a fast rapping style that some will be surprised by when they hear the album.

The album contains a lot of great production, such as the lead single we just released with Chicago producer 6th Trumpet. I chose us to start off with his VERY funky mix of what I call “Poetry’s Revolution.” I could not have picked a better producer to work with on such a track that contains a social justice message for many of the issues we are facing here, and beyond. You can listen to the track, and buy it here:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/poetrys-revolution-6th-trumpet/id944478036?i=944478101.

The balance of the project works well highlighting what I have done and accomplished over the years as an emcee, poet, and spoken word performer. I believe it will give my listeners and fans something to hold on to for a while until I devise the next project with Independent Ear, Inc.

With this project I will be seeking to continue to educate through my spoken word and show people that I am not limited as an artist, and that we should use all of the gifts and talents we’ve been blessed with.

Have some serious fun with my album which will be released on January 20th, 2015!

Follow this link to keep up with the release of “serious FUN”: http://www.independentear.com/artists/christopher-d-sims/

Thank you for your support!

Peace, love, and blessings in 2015 and beyond.