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.
Emcee turned slam poet Onyeka, popularly known as “O” debuted on the 2017 Kuumba Lynx slam team this year. O, has been a member of the Kuumba Lynx Performance Ensemble since summer of 2015, she has been extremely active in the music production aesthetic of Kuumba Lynx, penning a multitude of songs with a conscious message alongside her peers. O wanted to do more with her writing and delivery which ultimately led her to the Kuumba Lynx Slam Team. I recently sat down with Kween O and she shared her writing process and what she hopes to gain from a part of the slam team with me, hope you enjoy.
DP: What has your journey been like being involved in the Louder Than A Bomb competition?
O: This journey has been an absolute roller coaster. It has pushed me to my mental, physical, and emotional limits. But it has been rewarding I’m not going to lie, slam has required more dedication and time than I ever imagined but I would not change it for anything. In my opinion it was a necessary experience for me to have. Or for anyone to have really.
DP: What inspires you to write?
O: Anything and everything inspires me to write. Honestly I mainly write when I have a prevalent issue on my mind or when I feel stuck or voiceless. Writing gives me the space to get my thoughts out without judgement.
DP: Where did you draw your inspiration from for your current LTAB piece?
O: My current LTAB piece was inspire by an underlying issue that I have dealt with for the longest. My issues with my dad regarding my name and the path I have had set for me since birth was a huge milestone/hump in my adolescent life that I had to overcome and I had to do it by myself. After getting to a better place within myself I realized that I most likely was not the only one who has ever or who would ever go through that experience, and that I needed to tell my story to try and let someone else, anyone else who has/d a story even remotely related to mine that they were not and are not alone.
DP: Why is slam poetry necessary?
O: Slam poetry is necessary for the purpose that it gives an artistic safe space for artists to share and relate their own stories to an audience full of people all at different stages in their lives, going through different things. Slam poetry builds a community among strangers and it is honestly one of the most beautiful things that I have ever experienced.
DP: Describe to me a time where slam poetry liberated you? Or has it?
O: Honestly I have not had my “slam liberation” moment yet. I don’t think it’s the amount of times I’ve put my Indy on the stage or that I just didn’t perform it full out, but I honestly don’t know. All I know is that the times I have put my poem on a stage I have given it my all, but never had the feeling of “liberation” that a lot of other poets receive after they perform.
DP: What is your writing process like?
O: My writing process is fairly simple, also it is not excessive. I simply write whatever I feel, whenever I feel like writing. I do not stress my writing at all, I let the words just flow to me, and it is very rare but sometimes I don’t even finish a poems rough draft in one sitting. Draft writing is honestly the hardest part, because after the draft is done then it is just a repeated process of edits and fine tuning until I feel like my product is ready for a stage, and even then the editing process still isn’t over, it never ends because there is always room for improvement
DP What do you hope to gain this year in LTAB? What if the team wins does this affirm anything for you?
O: I am honestly currently in a very weird space regarding LTAB right now. At this point I don’t have anymore goals. Not because my team and I have met all of my goals but because my thinking and feelings towards the whole competition have changed. A win at finals would be nice I guess, but a loss wouldn’t be too devastating to me (even though my team would murder me for saying that). I’m just happy I got to experience this LTAB ride, and while some of me will miss it I can’t tell you that some parts aren’t relieved that it’s over.