BEREA – Several members of the Berea community gathered taking turns in front of a podium to share their written works with the audience.
With string lights and art brightening up the room, each speaker was meant to feel welcome to share their works – some sharing for the very first time. Berea Arts Council’s tagline – “art for everyone” – was displayed during this event as people of diverse backgrounds had a space to share their story.
The event featured Hasan Davis, of Hassan Davis Solutions, as a headliner. I have formally served as Commissioner of Juvenile Justice for the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
He is also the author of three books, including a work of poetry titled “Human Writes: A Book of Poetry,” “Written Off: How One Man’s Journey Through Poverty, Disability and Delinquency is Transforming the Juvenile Justice System,” and “The Journey of York: The Unsung Hero of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.”
“I’m excited to be back in this space and invite you all into this space,” Davis, a board member of the Berea Arts Council, said.
He read several poems from “Human Writes” at the mic night.
One poem titled “Sorcerers evil” Davis said he wanted to share because he has been “reflecting on recent events in Buffalo” referring to a mass shooting that occurred in Buffalo, New York at a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood. Ten people were killed and three others were injured – 11 were Black.
Davis recited another poem titled “Aces” about his experience witnessing homeless veterans while visiting Los Angeles, California. He said that the veterans were “disconnected from the world they sacrificed for.”
After Davis finished sharing his work, he answered questions from the audience. One audience member asked Davis what his “writing habits” were.
“(Writing) became a tool for me to kind of exercise all of that pain and anger, that grief, that fear in a way that I could then observe it from a distance,” Davis replied. “I could actually show other people what it was and so it really became a kind of a catalyst.
The event did open up for people to share their works, poems and excerpts from novels they wanted to share. Everyone was allotted roughly five to seven minutes to share.
Alice Lovelace – cultural worker, performance artist, teacher, and poet – shared a poem about an experience teaching 6th graders where they told her she couldn’t teach them anything because she is old. She said the constructive poem was for the older members of the audience.
“I was born in the 40’s, raised on the block, I was rocking to the music before it was rock, I grew up saying yes ma’am, sir and please, now these words roll off my tongue with ease. But this new generation thinks I’m square? Without my struggles you’d be nowhere,” she recites.
Elaine Hunter, a member of the Berea Writers Circle who lives in Cartersville, shared several poems she has written throughout her 78 years. Her poems by her resulted in laughter emitting from the audience while she was on stage.
One poem she shared was in regards to pregnancy which she said she wrote in the 1960’s, but Hunter said it’s “still coming around.”
“It was my fault, you know, getting pregnant at all. At least that’s the way he felt about it. And I suppose he was right. After all, I didn’t say no. But we were married and most of the books and that’s okay. Pretty hard to tell which ones are fairy tales,” Hunter recites.
Alex Heyrman shared his work in public for the first time, and was encouraged by the audience. Heyrman described himself as a “closet writer.” He shared poems of various topics including interracial dating, experiences in the military and being homeless.
“But can one truly appreciate night without day, black without white?” I have recited.
The Berea Art Council will be hosting a literary open mic night every third thursday.
Josh Prentice, an organizer of the event and member of the Berea Arts Council, shared that while he was glad to be able to put this literary open mic night together, he hopes to see more audience members at the new one.
“For the first night, I’m very happy,” Prentice said. “it would be nice to have more audience participation. It’s great to have them (sharing their work), but it’s also great for people to discover. “