The rhythmic words spoken by poet Unique (Ms.Fit) were clearly audible over the evening traffic speeding by on Sherman Boulevard:
“Who will be the last one standing?
Mr. and Mrs. Johnson left after graduation.
The educated always seem to feel the need to leave,
So the rich we see are drug dealers …”
Residents, fans and passersby gathered in the small park behind the gas station that was destroyed in the recent violence in Sherman Park. They came by chance and by invitation from the teen poets of Sacred Garden and Still Waters Collective, a “resource network for language artists and enthusiasts.” Attendees shared words, thoughts and feelings that emerged from the turmoil and longstanding conditions that preceded it.
Symone Leonard, 17, and two friends started the youth-led Sacred Garden group last year. Arts @ Large staff members encouraged Leonard’s interest in poetry by offering her performance space at Café @ Large, 908 S. 5th St.
Spoken-word artist Dasha Kelly, founder and director of Still Waters Collective, took on the role of mentor.
Initially, Leonard explained, Sacred Garden planned a single open-mic event, but it was so successful the group started to offer it regularly. “People loved it so much and so much of our city came out. The house was packed,” she said.
Beginning Sept. 30, Sacred Garden will host a free open-mic night at Café @ Large on alternating Fridays from 6:30 to 10 p.m.
Unique (Ms.Fit) and friends will host “Soul Set“ at the Wisconsin Black Historical Society and Museum on Friday, Aug. 26, 6:30 to 9:30. Admission is $10.