On Saturday, October 21st the ancestors were honored, channeled, and venerated through the holiest of spoken words, dished out by the Babel Poetry Collective. The showcase was titled, Babylon: Spirits and for that reason, each word, syllable, and song performed became immeasurable in stature and immaculate in depiction. As it turns out, this was only my second time attending a Babylon showcase, last year was my first experience at Babylon: Reclamation, where I was weeping like a baby. This time around, I was a little bit more prepared for the emotional roller coaster but I still managed to shed a tear. DJ Reezy was the moderator of the vibes for the night, with some smooth mixes that had the crowd at ease. Around 8:30 pm, the Co-Founder of the Black Boy Fly Collective, Jovan Mckoy started to kick things off by introducing the featured performer and Brave New Voices champion, Malachi Byrd. Byrd came flying onto the stage with a comedy poem about ashiness, making the crowd very self-conscious of any dry spots they have missed while putting on lotion. After the laughs subsided, Byrd began to read a couple poems from his most recent poetry book, Crowning Too Early and he ended with a rap from his mixtape, also titled, Crowning Too Early.
Following Byrd’s act, the first Babel member to hit the stage was Kenya, who spilled out her heart about what it means to be hurt so many times that numbness becomes second nature. New Babel member, Ronnie followed suit with an endearing poem about wanting to truly be with someone until the end of time. As I sat back in the crowd, I intently looked into all the words each Babel member let loose into the poetic universe, creating a storyboard full of spiritual experiences. Often times, the topic of death or the idea of the afterlife is quite pervasive in this westernized society but each artist was able to maneuver past the pervasiveness and touch the hearts of many through their stories.
One story in particular that touched me was Debra’s song about an individual having to change his or her circumstances to love while receiving prophecies and visions to guide her through this earthly realm. Another story that made me contemplate about the topic of death was when Faith began to get vulnerable about depression and suicide while living under her mother’s roof. Maya Simone, Dise Diasonama (On percussion), and Russel Davis (On percussion) were able to bring the neo-soul vibes to the room, as Maya’s vocals reached up to the Heavens, got comfortable for a bit, then descended back down to Earth.
Concluding the trio’s act, River boarded the poetry raft, painting a picture about the many messages the ridges in her brown Guatemalan hands can tell. Directly after River, the man who creatively directed the showcase himself and is one-third of the Black Boy Fly Collective, Jamal Parker made his way to the microphone and surprised the hell out me because, with a whole sixteen bars, he masterfully finessed over this instrumental. The emotional roller coaster was definitely in effect throughout the duration of the show, as Christinna and Dag let us into what it feels like to question an “Almighty God” that can seem so distant, untimely, and inconsiderate of black and brown bodies, in the midst of the everyday realities we face inside of this skin. President of Babel Stacy Li voiced this oh too well, touching on the nature of politics and how political figures act as though they don’t play God with all of the jurisdiction that they truly hold. When Stacy exited the stage, there was a spiritual shift, or spiritual countdown if you will, narrated by new Babel member Ian, recounting the journal entries he wrote about a very close companion of his. The recounting of these entries by Ian, created a seamless transition for the Vice President of Babel, Dani to expresses the intricately dichotomous relationship that she and her father have, that makes them very like but very different at the same time.
Right behind Dani came the magical new babel member, Osi who shared about the matriarchal powers of his ancestors who practiced voodoo and his ties to them in the spirit realm. The ensuing act is one-third of Black Boy Fly Collective and he goes by the name Pratt, he rhymed about having angels around him, while taking trips down the ave and reminiscing about family memories. From trips down the ave to slave ships, Imani, Osi, Christinna, and Dani gave us their vantage point of what it feels like for their spirits to roam the ocean floors after jumping off of slave ships. To close out, Babel brought up Russel also known as ‘ThePoetsSon”, who was accompanied by Maya Simone (vocals) and Dise (vocals and guitar). The song left many people in the crowd in tears, including me, as Russel rapped about dying daily, the old sense of self, and putting on the impenetrable armor of The Most High God.