And The Beat Goes On
Apr 7, 2013

Acknowledging the roots I've laid in the local cultural game, and figuring out how to keep building on the foundation

Ego, and the passage of time, are both major motivating factors. There may be nothing more humbling to a creative spirit than to hear someone describing you saying, "She used to...". Used to. As in, I can remember being impressed by her talent, but can't really tell you what she is doing right now, or how well she's doing it.

Ugh.

I will readily admit that haven't been a practicing poet in several years. Compared to the frequency with which I used to hit open mics and seek out gigs all across the country for my writing talent in an earlier era, poetry definitely does hover around the "back then" category in my life. Doesn't mean that I've forgotten the joys of delivering a well-crafted set of verses. In more recent years, I've merely decided to share my ideas via other modes of expression. And aside from this weekly blog, handling all of my job responsibilities and maintaining a bare minimum of social life leaves precious little time for creative writing of any kind. Yet, I have to admit that it felt good to share a lil something last Friday, as part of my hosting duties for the WordJam youth poetry competition. My adopted little brother in the word, "Just Greg" Corbin grabbed a mic as I was walking back to the podium and said, "Dag Stef...I just realized how long it's been since I've heard you spit! What's up?" Not enough hours in the day, I suppose, and a desire to do something bigger with the words than just a poetic piece here and there. Like the über-talented Marc Bamuthi Joseph, I'm trying to craft a master work for the theatrical stage. But who has the time?

And on Saturday, I sat in the front row watching The Inspiration, a Penn a cappella group I helped to found, perform in their annual spring show. On the same stage where my friends and I performed in the group's first spring show, 23 years prior. Despite how proud I was to hear the kids singing well and upholding the legacy, there is also a small controversy that we must overcome about the official group alumni song. Somehow, the original selection has been dismissed for another song that was first performed nearly 10 years later. This issue is not unlike so many Black institutions that struggle to maintain their core mission, while trying to adapt and stay relevant for newer generations. I need to mentor these kids and help them understand the founding members' choices. And I need to keep arranging and producing my own vocal arrangements, because I do not want to drop the ball on an art form that I truly love and a process that has increased my musical knowledge and abilities exponentially.

Keeping up with the times, and not dwelling too long in the Land of Used To. Amazing how often I've been having this conversation lately. Innovate and adapt, or be rendered obsolete. Not me, baby. I've still got so much left to say.

Here is last week's playlist: