When Brian C. Scott, creator of Culturocity.com, approached me to cover the Kings and Queens of Poetry Tour for Culturocity.com, my main concern was to report the happenings in the most objective literary voice possible. This would prove to be a task considering one of my favorite spoken word artists, Georgia Me, would be performing at one of my favorite spots, Urban Roots. Now, after having met her in person, I can say without an ounce of bias, that GeorgiaMe proved to be a captivating, walking poem and anyone within 5 feet of her would be mesmerized, if not completely infatuated. Tamika Harper, aka Georgia Me, is an Atlanta native who has been crowned the Queen of Spoken Word Poetry. She is to spoken word poetry what Aretha Franklin is to soul music. With a resume that boasts of an Emmy, a Tony, seven appearances on HBO’s Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry Jams, a major motion picture and appearances on several other cable network nighttime talk shows, Georgia Me was everything and more than I expected her to be. GeorgiaMe graced the Tulsa stage on Friday night and then blessed us with her presence on Saturday night at Urban Roots in downtown Oklahoma City.
Allow me to set the scene:
As I approached the venue, I spotted her standing outside and the poet in me was immediately star-struck. I introduced myself with an extended hand to shake and she immediately dismissed my hand and pulled me in for a big bear hug with all her Southern Charm. Her personality was huge and her presence was royal but her attitude was warm and welcoming and it was easy to be in her space and have her in mine. She was dressed in all black with the word “Niggods” in gold, metallic lettering emblazoned on the front of her shirt. I recognized the word as the title of one of her poems that I had seen her perform on one of her many television appearances. Her natural mane was piled high atop her head in an intricate coiffure. We chatted like old friends, she agreed to grant me an interview after the show, and I did my imitation of an old lady catching the Holy Ghost at church and bid her a great show as I went in.
This is the part where I need to pause and point out that the staff at Urban Roots treated me so graciously! The hostess called me by my first name, she acknowledged that I was there to write about the event and even let me know where I might be able to find some available seating in that packed house. And the bowl of gumbo I devoured will require its very own blog. Let’s just say, it was nothing short of a party in my mouth.
As I was weaving my way through the standing room only crowd, I ran into some artistic heavyweights in the Oklahoma City community, Candace Liger and Written Quincy, who both performed in the show, and Grace Franklin, the emcee. As I glanced around the room recognizing several other poets like Anastacia Brown, Mike Willis and Kendal Turner, just to name a few, I thought to myself Urban Roots certainly has a way of bringing all different types of artists to create one collective piece of living art. With so many talented artists in one room, the energy was absolutely intoxicating, and I intended to overdose.
When Georgia Me finally took center stage, she proved to be worth the wait. She was funny and animated and attentive to every corner of the room. She opened with “Promised land” a piece about her love for Atlanta, to which she was born and bred. The crowd acted as her backup singers during “Ghetto Belle” and was captivated by every stanza of “B.A.N.” She spewed valuable knowledge and history through her charming Southern twang. With a smile that illuminated the whole room, her larger than life personality had the entire crowd hanging on every word. She referred to her poetry as her “testimony.” No stone was left unturned as she addressed religion, love, politics and sex through her poetry. The people that didn’t know her fell in love with her and the people that already knew her fell further in love with her.
After the show, I sat down with GeorgiaMe for an informal interview. True to self, she was just as lively and charming offstage. She answered my questions in between posing for pictures and signing autographs for fans, and she never missed a beat. Her answers were so honest and passionate in her convictions that every now and then you could hear “I know that’s right!” and “You better say that!” coming from various corners of the room.
TH: Why do you use air quotes when you say spoken word?
GM: I throw up the quotations because yeah, I am a spoken word artist, but it’s so much more than that. My poetry is my testimony. I’m giving my testimony.
TH: Many would consider you urban. If you had to label yourself with a genre, what genre are you?
GM: People have warped the definition of urban and made it street. Urban is a geographical location. Urban doesn’t necessarily mean street. My genre is high end culture. I am high end culture.
TH: During your performance tonight you mentioned that for an artist, wealth is in relationships. What did you mean by that?
GM: Because of the relationships I have built with people in my life, by just being real and being me, people don’t just want my poetry, they want me.
TH: What advice would you give to aspiring poets out here trying to do what you’re doing?
GM: You are all that you need. You are enough. You don’t need nothing else! Be true to who you are because you are enough. Even if you stand on stage and read out of a book, be you!
TH: Have you ever found yourself intimidated by another artist?
GM: Even if Jesus was on the mic, I wouldn’t have a problem going after Him. You wanna know why? Because my poetry is my testimony. Everybody has their own testimony. He got His and I got mine. And everybody needs to tell their testimony because you don’t know who it’s gonna reach. This ain’t no competition!
TH: Okay so all the fellas want to know and probably some of the ladies too so I have to ask. Are you single?
GM: No! I got me a good man!
TH: What would you like to say to all the poets here in Oklahoma?
GM: You guys are all that you need. Exalt each other. Uplift each other. There’s enough of y’all here to get it done. You all are all you need.
TH: Last words. What do you want Oklahoma, Culturocity and the world to know about GeorgiaMe?
GM: I represent God’s children. I am a child of God. No matter where you are, no matter where you’re from in the world, I share one commonality with everyone. The struggle.