Live fully, in the spirit of MLK, spoken word poet urges


By Nadiah Porter
Durham Tech Poetry Instructor

On Friday, Jan. 14, the faculty students and staff of Durham Technical Community College gathered to highlight the life of a leader whose vision for a better society is not only celebrated, but demonstrated on and after this momentous holiday.

Nadiah Porter delivers her spoken word poem on King Day at Durham Tech as former State Senator Dr. Howard Lee and Durham Tech President Dr. Bill Ingram listen. (Photo by Jonathan Weinshank of Durham Tech)

Each year, Durham Technical Community College hosts numerous service projects which incorporate the less fortunate into Dr.  Martin Luther King’s dream to integrate the masses.

And each year, the creative team from the Martin Luther King Jr. Committee strive to out-do themselves in a much anticipated potluck.  The potluck includes entertainment, and features guest speakers from outside of the college.  The school has made it a tradition to open up the event with a symbol of unity, by encouraging everyone to participate in singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

The different vocal ranges soared in an effort to celebrate diversity in education levels, backgrounds, and beliefs.  The musical harmony that encompassed the large space became a symbolic representation of the social harmony that Dr. King devoted his life to obtain.

The 25th annual celebration continued as the President of Student Senate, Donna McNally, welcomed the guests by introducing them to this year’s slogan; “Remember, Celebrate, Act.”

Erin Riney, the Coordinator for Service Learning, gave a moving presentation in which her speech highlighted Dr. King’s belief that “Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.”

In her own words, Riney points out that today, the need for clear leadership is “more urgently felt,” and now is the time to “Be the change” that we so  desperately desire to see.

It is my second year participating in Durham Tech’s Martin Luther King Celebration.  My contribution to the festivities included an original Spoken Word Poem that enabled me to use words to signify the importance of togetherness.

This year, I decided to “spit” a poem that I titled “Aria of a Songbird.” The poem encourages us all to live fully, despite our present, which will inevitably become our past.

I wrote the poem one Saturday night as a tweeting bird interrupted my sleep.  I found it strange for a bird to sing in the “moonshine” as opposed to the sunshine, and so the first stanza came to me freely, and reads:

It’s 11:52 p.m.

And there’s a bird chirping outside my window

Clearly confused by the “moonshine” he tweets a lullaby

He’s singing in the dark…

It was after the first stanza filtered through my pen, that I realized the pun that I had created in the word “moonshine”, (implying that the bird was confused because of intoxication).  The rest of the poem came to me, and I let the passion I used when I wrote the piece fuel my performance as I reminded the audience that:

Life…

Life is about dancing in the rain

It’s about making lemons- aide

It’s about taking impossibilities

And allowing them to assist you

In the most POSSIBLE of ways

(Read the poem in its entirety at the end of this story)


My performance was gracefully followed by an instrumental music selection performed by Karen Jackson, Director of the Center for Academic Excellence, and Vernon Bridges, Chair of Developmental Mathematics.

Jackson, an outgoing people-lover, was accompanied by the soft spoken Bridges in a display of artistic sound.

No words were needed to imply the powerful messages that were being dispensed by their flutes.  As the entire crowd sat in silence, I was reminded of a time, before my time.  A time when Black Americans were denied the right to gain knowledge through education.  A time when Blacks were denied the simple luxury of learning to play an instrument.

I watched as my fellow colleagues stood side by side, and saw the importance in the right to friendship:  a freedom too often overlooked.  Together, they stood as a melodic demonstration of past, present, and future.

The guest speaker elect for this year’s festivities was former State Senator Howard N. Lee, now the Executive Director for the Education Cabinet.  Howard Lee delivered his message with honesty and an outstanding enthusiasm for change.

Mr. Lee was very direct in his words as he revealed many of the disadvantages that today’s youth, particularly Black youth, have become entangled in.  Howard Lee addresses Black American boys more specifically, and reveals that they are statistically the highest number of children to be raised by single mothers, the highest number to be admitted to correctional facilities, the most commonly underpaid, and undereducated.  For some of us in the audience, this was a reminder, and for some, a revelation.

Lee spoke victory over the crowd as he insisted that we all must have “the courage to learn from history, and not be enslaved by it.”

“Too many children are being left behind,” he said.  He then declared that too many children, excited about life, are dying early.

Too many children wanting to explore the knowledge of the world are being denied intellectually.

And too many children, born with the right to freedom, are becoming incarcerated.  Encompassing the idea that it takes a village to raise our children right, Howard Lee ended his address to Durham Tech by saying simply, “We have a job to do.”

This event closed with unifying remarks by the school’s esteemed President Dr. Bill Ingram.  The guests then participated in a joyful selection of songs led by the Durham Tech’s very own Martin Luther King Choir.  The people sang side by side, and hand in hand in fact, while celebrating a great leader whose memory is survived by his purpose.

Aria of a Songbird

It’s 11:52 p.m.

And there’s a bird chirping outside my window

Clearly confused by the “moonshine” he tweets a lullaby

He’s singing in the dark…

Life,

Life is about dancing in the rain

It’s about making lemons- aide

It’s about taking impossibilities

And allowing them to assist you

In the most POSSIBLE of ways

View entire poem on page (page number here)

Life…

Life is about dancing in the rain

It’s about making lemons- aide

It’s about taking impossibilities

And allowing them to assist you

In the most POSSIBLE of ways

It’s about taking your ailments and making them ART

Taking your PAST,

And your FUTURE,

and setting them APART!

While the pieces of the present, you can never take back

You can still present them proudly, even if they’re unwrapped

Unraveled

Unveiled

For the whole world to see

Because even tattered covers

Are still meant to be…

So I write down my “nows” in hopes for “tomorrows”

Understanding the lessons

Embracing the sorrow

Because my words without ink

Are stories untold

So I put passion

To pigment

That never gets old

It will never be erased

Misconstrued or misplaced

Because the lives that I’ve lived

Are relived through this page

And repeated in verses

In school and in churches

Making poems I bleed

Undoubtedly worth it

My purpose?

To preserve

To connect future

To past

Taking the wills of my ancestors

And making them last

An echo of freedom a whisper of truth

A fountain of forgiveness

Will water my youth

So I forgive

And I love

And I invite Future in

Introduce her to Memories

Then I do it all again

Like this poem

Like this stanza

I’ll continue to repeat

Yes this poem

This stanza

I’ll continue to repeat

Repeat…

It’s 12:03 am

And the bird is still perched

Giving life

To the silence

Giving freedom its worth

And as he songs

I poem

As he hums

I hymn

As he cleverly creates rhythm

I create pattern with pen

Knowing that this poem

This stanza

I’ll continue to repeat

Yes this poem

This stanza

I’ll continue to repeat

Because a new open mic

Is a new person in need

A new person to guide

A new person to lead

A new person to fix

A new person to reach

And new story to tell

An old lesson to teach

But as I’m teaching

And preaching

To generate belief

I often discover

That new person is ME

So I listen

And I learn

And I humble my pen

Put my speaker on silent

And invite Wisdom in

And I grow and I mature

And I develop my words

Allowing my actions to manifest

From my verbs

And I riddle

And I rhyme

As I write these things down

Because life is taking setbacks

And turning them around

Turning a note

Into a symphony

Cracking a smile

Despite misery

Always remembering

Who you are

Who you were

And who you’re meant to be

Because a picture

With broken wings

Is still a work of art

And an example

Of true belief

Is singing

In the dark!



5 thoughts on “Live fully, in the spirit of MLK, spoken word poet urges

  1. ismail a aziz says:

    MS POETIC-PRINCESS!
    (A (L)ETTERGEMS TRIBUTE 2 NADIA PORTER WHOSE GIFTS AS A SONGBIRD POETIC STYLIST INSPIRES… ENRICHES…EMPOWERS…N… TEACHES SO BEAUTIFIROUSLY)
    THE (L)ETTERGEMS POEM!
    …she writes-she teaches-she so elegantly weaves
    a simple word into
    titillating gems of poetry
    that sing inspiration n hope 2 the human heart…

    …she weaves-she writes-she so skillfully teaches
    a magical-word spoken-story of revolutionary luv

    2 other creative minds…
    eager 2 embrace her courageous conviction
    of the intuitive pen’s power 2 change the world…

    right an injustice…dry a mother’s tear…
    …or see the imprint of G-D’s beauty on a butterfly‘s wing…

    i righteously bear witness…
    …she teaches-she weaves-she writes such a compelling emotion of captivating charisma…
    cooked in drama-filled prose…
    her polished gifts … her prolific words revealed…
    her deliciously delightful pen…

    …she is the poetic princess!…
    a soulsurrifically stunning Nefertiti-chiseled sistah!
    a-righteous-rhythm-rager-of-lyrical-excellence!
    a black panterish fearless wordsmith!
    a dynamite-dutchess-diva-who-delivers-doses-of
    straight-2-da-bone-chilling-vibes!

    …she is the poetic princess!…
    a sheroic nubian dreamqueen of a writer
    whose authentic feminine power
    nurtues wisdom…nurtues freedom…
    while creating luv!…

    ©Feb/2011 created…authored…n copyrighted by ismail

  2. ismail a aziz says:

    …i am simply a motivated fan…admirer…n devoted friend of the awesome poetic skills taught n exemplified by Nadiah Porter whose signature should be supported…encouraged…n celebrated by all of us here in Durham who delight in well-crafted n well-delivered spoken word artistry…

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