An oasis in a desert of urban blight, this is the Sweet Epiphany, the place where beautiful minds meet.
I went to this oasis on Detroit’s Westside to interview a young man named, Jah X El.
I arrived early, wanting to see what the place was about, and it certainly was not what I expected.
I imagined I’d be walking into a dimly lit nightclub, with beer and wine posters plastered about, all displaying subtle enticements to try the latest in sugary intoxicants.
Instead what greeted me had all the trappings of a warm and inviting abode that welcomes you in, and encourages you to kick back. The Sweet Epiphany doesn’t serve alcohol, in fact, the only thing I saw flowing, other than the rhythmic lyrics of the artist performing, was pure H2O.
I was early, and the artist I came to interview was getting set up for his show which was scheduled to begin at nine. So I used the opportunity to sit and listen.
The show in progress was, “The Poetic Purpose Series,” hosted by Kizzy Thomas. Thomas was doing a magnificent job of emceeing the show and performing for the audience. Several of the shows performers were very young, in fact, most were teenagers. Further into the performances I discovered that the show had a Christian theme, which bared itself out in the performances being conducted.
“I thank God for the power of my pen,” say’s Neva Pearson-Griffin, one young artist who was performing for only the second time at the Sweet Epiphany. “Sweet Epiphany is very calming and welcoming.”
Jennifer Williams, owner of the Sweet Epiphany shared with me, that they recently celebrated their 1st anniversary on June 13, 2010.
As the show continued to wind down I had an opportunity to speak with Jah.
He shared with me his struggles, his thoughts, on where he wants to go, and the path he took to get where he is now.
Jah revealed that he has been writing since age 13, when he left his mother’s home in Florida, walking away from an abusive situation. He lived on the streets of Detroit, got married at 18, divorced at 19, graduated from high school a year early, spent time in prison, got shot twice, stabbed twice, and wrote two books, (Jah’isms, Inspirational Poems for Women) and (Jah’ism’s II), scheduled to hit store shelves August 1, 2010. He currently counsels young kids and women on domestic violence.
“Some of the artist who perform here are among the most talented and gifted individuals in the country,” says Jah.
Three of the top five poets in the country reside in the Detroit area. Names like Wright, Burton and Miller are artist that have a national following, but are little known locally, outside the artist community.
Jah and other artist in attendance, like Chris (Untitled) Jones and Natasha (Beautiful Thought) Sansom are among the Top 10 up and coming artist in Detroit.
During our conversation Jah explained that there is a difference between poetry and the spoken word. He describes the Spoken Word as a bridge between Hip Hop and Poetry.
“Spoken Word is not simply recited, it’s performed,” says Jah. “It’s acted out with every fiber of ones being, on stage, under the lights, for everyone to see. “
He then instructed each artist that came to the podium to recite two pieces, one specifically written to be read from paper or another form of medium. The second piece, a Spoken Word performance designed specifically to stimulate both the visual and auditory senses.
I sat motionless, after a moment I realized my mouth was agape and my neck had my eyes locked in a front facing position. I listened, observed, and marveled as half a dozen artists performed before me.
Each performance encompassed high and low tones, gestures, motions, emotions, pains and reflections.
I walked away with something far more valuable than a simple interview. I gained a deeper appreciation and understanding of the craftsmanship and intellect that goes into creating this priceless work of art.
(KPT)… Keep the Pages Turning.