My homie & number-one-all-time poetry collaborator/motivator/instigator of the greatest collective of all time, The Last Minute Poets (born, Genna’s Lounge, Madison, WI, 2005; died, when Tracie and Guante left us for Philly and Minneapolis, respectively, 2007)…is the one and only Eric Mata. That’s my man who I was on my first slam team with, who got me my first gig teaching spoken word, who showed me how to lay out my first chapbook on InDesign so that every other page wouldn’t print upside down. That’s my dude.
“I love you…man.”
(That was the title of our first group piece together. I’m still mad we didn’t get residuals from that rip-off Paul Rudd movie that came out last year.)
Anyway, Eric sent me this video of a poem he saw performed by “some middle school students in Oakland.” It’s a remix of a piece Eric wrote and a bunch of us performed together back in Madison in 2004 called “I Am.” I couldn’t believe they found the poem online and decided to use it as their piece. AND…they took first place in the competition and get to perform in March at the finals!
Here’s the video (sorry, only on Facebook):
Wil.E.Mac & The General recite “I am”
Little did Eric know…but I KNOW THESE KIDS! They performed at Youth Speaks’ Bringing the Noise for MLK show last month in front of 1,000 people. And absolutely STOLE the show. I had to tell Eric they’re elementary students, not even middle school. And the competition is the Oakland Oratorical Fest, which is a big deal for my students here in the 510.
Watch the boys with the Oakland Ensemble aka Young, Gifted, and Black at Youth Speaks (again, only on Facebook…I guess people don’t upload to Youtube anymore, that was soooo 2009):
And finally, to bring it full circle, here’s the original version of “I Am” written by Eric and performed by a bunch of us in the UW Multicultural Student Center satellite. Maybe not Eric’s greatest poem ever. (I can hear him now, “Man that shit was cliché as shit.”). Maybe not my best job trimming my beard (“Ayo, Healey, you need to get your shit lined up.”) Maybe not as good as the outakes, with Josh Toro violently yelling “Ok, ok take 43…I’M GONNA GET IT RIGHT THIS TIME!!” (“No Toro, you’re not. Shiiiitt…”)
But a good time nonetheless, and definitely a moment in Madison as spoken word was starting to make its first ripples (not yet waves). And now that poem’s followed me here to Oakland.
Yes, it’s a small world. So here’s to the small revolutionaries remixing it…