By Sara Aslagson-Sahar
At 8pm the doors of Queen Bee’s opened and the line, which was down the block, began to move. For five dollars (cash), I was permitted entry and in I walked. The doors opened into the middle of the room where there were eight rows of five chairs on both sides of the aisle. Around these were several tall red tables with black backed chairs.
I had chosen to attend a spoken word event called Elevated hosted by Collective Purpose. Known as “San Diego’s Home for Spoken Word”. Collective Purpose hosts Elevated the first and third Thursday of every month at 8 pm at the Queen Bee’s Art and Cultural Center. For $5, you have the option of performing poetry, or just sitting, watching, and enjoying. For this event I chose to just watch, but I am looking forward to going back and performing my own spoken word poetry in the future.
At first I sat in one of the white chairs, midway back, thinking that it would be easy for me to see the poets on the microphone. After sitting there for a minute, someone with a very tall torso sat down in front of me. I quickly realized that this person would block the view of the microphone, so I moved. I decided that it would be more advantageous for me to sit at one of the tall tables, where I could actually see the poets as they performed.
When I moved I noticed the stunning and evocative art around the room. I admired the art for a while, most of which were Dia De Los Muertos skulls, and then I chose to sit at a tall table. I waited enjoying the DJ’s loud music, watching the Live Artist, Shelly Bruce, and waiting for the start.
The MC kicked it off asking us, “Elevated. What’s up? How are you feeling?”
“Ele-vated!” the crowd cheered back. There was another practice for the new people and then we were off.
As the show went on I learned that this was Elevated’s 10th Year Anniversary Show, and throughout the night the sense of family and safety that Elevated has built was apparent. One after another, eloquent and passionate poets stepped up to the mic and spit their poems about topics, including rape, racial issues, gender issues, and more. Some topics that are easily identifiable with and many poems which shed light on those topics that are not as easy to identify with. The only rule for poets was that they could perform only one poem in 3 minutes or fewer. Here is a link to a performance filmed on a different night, but features the poet, Rudy Francisco, who actually performed the poem in the video the night I was there.
The headline poet was Natasha T. Miller. She was sassy, honest, and blunt. Her poetry talked about the realities of dating and a poem for her brother. She also promoted projects she had worked on and asked everyone to give her a hug even if they could not purchase one of her chapbooks or t-shirts.
After she performed, poets continued to come on stage. This included the artist Shelly Bruce and the DJ, who both promoted events they had coming up involving the community to encourage participation in art. One of the MCs told us about community awareness events he and his company were doing as well to help better the standard of living for many different occupations in San Diego. Others told us about other spoken word events happening in San Diego.
Overall, what I took away from this event was a couple things. One is that poets have a way of tapping into humanity and connection between us all. Spoken word poetry, is a verbal trust fall and allows a space for open communication about topics that are often hidden in the dark. Also Elevated is a place that genuinely cares about the community. They want to help, they want to make things better in this world and are willing to do work to get that done. When I walked out the doors I knew that this group was working to make the world better, through poetry and activism, and that I wanted to support that.
If you are interested in any Collective Purpose spoken word poetry events, you can check out their website here. On their website they advertise all the Elevated events and other spoken word events.