From the archives of Sweet Home Vallejo:
This is Charles, owner of the mobile bookstore which sets up in front of the Art Department during the Farmers Market on Saturdays when I’m not traveling out of town for business. I would like to thank Chandra for allowing me to submit the following which I’ll share with you right now.
When I moved to Vallejo a while back, one of the first places I wanted to visit was the Listen and Be Heard café, a famous hot spot for spoken word artists in the North Bay. Unfortunately, the café closed down before I had a chance to share pieces from both of my books, The Depths of My Soul and The Voices of South Central. Without a venue for self-expression, I felt lost as I’m sure the lyrical artists felt when news of the café’s closure was announced.
Despite the loss of Listen and Be Heard’s physical presence, previous owners Tony and Martha Cinader Mims have maintained a strong online presence for their legion of supporters. One click to their website is an indication poetry is alive and well on their end. Although the Mims have moved away from the city, there are places and individuals who won’t allow the gift of the spoken word to fade away.
Slam artist GO is one of the leading names when it comes to spoken word poetry in the North Bay, especially Vallejo. He also participates in a monthly program in nearby Fairfield entitled Life Sentence produced by 3rd Eye Collective, for which GO is a member of. I had the privilege of meeting this dynamic spoken word artist and he was one of the first Bay area residents who greeted me with open arms when I started my new life in this part of the state. When you listen to him speak from his heart, you feel the energy and visualize his feelings about life, which are very powerful indeed.
Next up, is Profet’s Poetry by the Bay. Held every second and fourth Thursday inside Panama Red coffeehouse inside the Vallejo Ferry Terminal, local poets get a chance to share their self expression on the mic. Since Profet started the venue and kept the poetry flow going in Vallejo, this talented artist recently released a CD of his own works called Profetic Lyrics. He isn’t one to toot his own horn and is just happy to give a first run program beginning with the music of Khe Note, a band originating from the North Bay headlined by lead vocalist Khela. There are other bands who perform before the artists go on stage, so if you’re in the North Bay or waiting for a ride back to the City, I urge you to stop by and check out Profet’s show.
Finally, there are a group of poets who deserve mention. The next generation of spoken word artists go on stage every month inside the JFK Library for their Teen Poetry Slam. For all the negative talk about our young people, here is an event which is positive, encourages them to share their voices with the rest of the world and gives them an outlet to use that energy rather than the types of activities often mentioned on the printed pages of a newspaper. Prizes are handed out to middle and high school students who participate and I’ve even helped out by lending two of my own books for the winners of one slam. Our young people can do a lot to turn this city around, if we’re willing to listen to what they have to say without prejudice while understanding the challenges they’re facing in these troublesome times. That is not to say every young person is striving to be better than we were, but for those that are, they need our support without a doubt.
Vallejo is a city that is rich in talent..There may not be a Listen and Be Heard café anymore, but it doesn’t mean the spoken word has gone away. The gift of poetry always flourishes in times of distress, and for the venues mentioned above, a much needed relief for a city which sorely needs it.
Written in December 2009.