A blog series created by Darius Parker profiling members of the Kuumba Lynx Performance Ensemble
The Kuumba Lynx Performance Ensemble (KLPE) has been a pillar of Uptown and Chicago for twenty years. Since her inception, the Kuumba Lynx founders and the original KLPE members have always utilized one key element in the development of their creative works, courageous voice. By history, the Lynx, a component of the organization’s name, is a member of the cat family, it is known to be small in size but hosts a mighty roar.
Kuumba Lynx has participated in Chicago’s -wide slam poetry competition, Louder than a Bomb for sixteen years, awarded five 1st place titles, making them the most decorated slam poetry team in the competition’s history thus far.
With a new year and new poetry festival approaching, members of the 2017 Slam Team sat down with alumni Darius Parker. They navigated their individual writing process’, shared some of their favorite KL writing and performance pedagogy, and discussed how they are preparing for to slam this spring. This series of #ViewsFromTheLynx will profile the 2017 slam poetry team in its entirety.
With Louder Than A Bomb coming to a close Saturday night, the Kuumba Lynx Slam Team have got their work cut out for them. Securing a 6th championship title isn’t going to be an easy task, but with the guidance of our creator coupled with the Slam Team’s hunger and drive for performance excellence by being true to who they are as poets, performers and creative entities. The Final Four for the competition are Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep, Percy L. Julian High School and Rebirth Poetry Ensemble. All of which are extremely talented in their own right. I recently sat down with the Kuumba Lynx Slam team in its entirety, all of the poets you’ve all had the pleasure of getting to know via the blog, Sammy, O and additionally Victor, and hopefully you’ve gotten to know them through their art on the Louder Than A Bomb stage. The group piece round is probably one of our most favorite time period during the competition and this year the team decided to take a stab at one of critiques they’ve been hearing for years, “Kuumba Lynx moves too much in their poems.” The brilliance of this piece gets no justice by just talking about it, one has to experience this for themselves. Check out their thoughts below.
DP: Describe to me what the “Move” piece is about?
Victor: The Move piece has many layers to it, it was written in response to the LTAB community and their reaction and feelings towards our movement in our poems and why they feel as if it “distracts from the words.” The poem is about why we, as a unit, move and how it dates back to our ancestral movements and how we carry those movements through our words and our hip-hop expression.
Sammy: The move piece is about the language that comes from our body and its bodily functions. We analyze the necessity of movement in our society.
O: In my eyes move isn’t a response, or a clapback, it’s almost like a cry. A cry for our voice to be heard, to educate everyone who criticizes Kuumba Lynx for moving. “Move” was written for our side of the story to be heard, because before anyone can make a rounded judgement they need all sides of a story, and a lot of our critics aren’t ignorant, or mean, just simply uninformed.
DP: Where did the idea come from?
Victor: The idea came from us wanting to explain why we move and why it transcends past the poetry slam and why it’s not our job to explain why we do what we do and dumb it down for those listening to understand because it is what we do and why we do it is for us to say and for others to understand.
Sammy: The idea came from feeling censored of using movement in the spoken word community. The community censoring us may seem like a minimal topic, but in the streets we see law enforcement officers attempting to censor protestors who (move).
O: Honestly this was an idea that was just thrown out at the beginning of the season that everyone stuck to. The people who had been in LTAB more than one year were all just so passionate about the idea and extremely detailed in explaining the reasoning behind the idea that when myself along with the other new slam member just had to jump on board and be a part of its creation
DP: What was the writing process like for this piece?
VIctor: The writing process for this play started off as rants in all honesty(as a clapback to those who dissed us). But then we really examined our purpose in writing and performing this piece and concluded that though it IS a clapback, it’s not simply a diss, it is more of a clapback with reason, we explain where we come from and how our indigenous roots inspire our movements and so we began to write on that and that came together as more solid and we wrote on that which then became a solid put together of “Why we move.”
Sammy: The writing process was surprisingly smoother then other topics! That being said the words in the poem flowed freely onto the page.
O: Writing this piece took more consideration and background knowledge than I thought it would. I being someone who just joined the slam team, and coming in with a diffrent perspective than the veteran poets had a diffrent take and understanding of the meaning of the piece which I think worked in my favor to help the piece come together well
DP:Why do you feel like “Move”‘s message is necessary for this years slam competition?
Victor: I feel like “move” is such a necessary message because of how much movement is ingrained in the slam community. “You can’t be a poet without being a mover” is one of our lines in the poem and that line encapsulates the essence of the poem. Whether you are making a plane, naturally feeling your poem, breathing, moving your mouth, a poem requires one to move, and so for people to denounce what we do because it’s been a part of our lives before slam even happened and then still do it on stage, the message needs to be addressed and people need to understand that.
Sammy: The message is necessary because people have begun to realize the strength of movement, but we would also want to remind them that Kuumba Lynx has been fighting to get that message across for a long time.
O: The fact that Kuumba Lynx has been criticized for moving in poems for so long, and the fact that that criticism has discouraged some key Kuumba Lynx slam members from returning to LTAB speak volumes. We as a team mainly composed of seniors have had enough, and we want to give the next generation of Kuumba Lynx slam members the idea that they have a fighting chance to be included in the Chicago poetry community without feeling ridiculed or excluded.