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.
Next up on this mic is Sejahari Sv, Sejahari or popularly known as “Sejah” has been rooted in the Kuumba Lynx #WeGetFree pedagogy from birth, with being one of the Kuumba Lynx Co-Founders eldest son. He has been a force in the slam poetry and spoken word platforms since he was able to formulate sentences. Now a senior at Kenwood Academy High School and exiting slam team captain Sejah put his journey in LTAB and Kuumba Lynx into perspective for himself as an artist and as a human.
DP: Describe to me your writing process.
Sejahari: I have an interesting writing process I feel like. I like to write in sections, in most of my poetry I think I’m very mathematical the way I group parts of my poem. For example my Indy last year I did a poem where I explored my masculinity. Throughout the poem I chose very specific instances to write about and I wrote in those sections individually and eventually brought them all together. It’s sort of a long process but I think it helps in the long run because I focus on very small poems to great a bigger one. My process also includes thinking of ideas in the shower and clean my room and I sit with my computer and my journal and write out the ideas I have in the shower. I love performance and read one line aloud and then I can feel what my next line will be and so I write it.
DP: How long have you been doing slam poetry?
Sejahari: Technically since the fourth grade and that’s when I competed in Kuumba Lynx’s Half Pint Poetics poetry slam. I competed with my school and it was awesome. But I’ve always been around slam since I could remember. I’ve been around for such a long time. I’d like to say I started in the womb.
DP: What was the evolution of your content from 4th grade to now?
Sejahari: I think my content has come full circle. The first poem you usually write is a “Who I Am” poem talking about what you like, what’s your ethnicity, and what you go through day to day. I’ve realized now as I’m becoming more mature in my artistry I think I’m coming back to that. Essentially now I like for all my poems to be a “Who I Am” poem. A poem describing my experience as a young, black and mexican, feminine boy in chicago and what that means to me. I think that the evolution is present in my craft and how hard I work and the maturity of my writing. And it helps me reflect on the old days and what if I took my fourth grade poem and turn it into a senior year poem. I still feel like I’m that kid and I’m just discovering myself more and more through the art.
DP: Why do you feel it’s necessary to explore your identity through your writing?
Sejahari: I think slam and poetry in general is a tool to unravel your identity and I’ve never seen it separate. I also feel like the best art comes from your spirit. So when you unravel your identity through art and essentially you’ll have the best art created. I feel like it’s the best because it’s the most truthful. And when you’re honest with yourself is when the audience can connect to it whether they’ve experienced it or not. I also feel like art wouldn’t be art without people exploring their identities.
DP: What has your journey been like being involved in the Louder Than A Bomb competitions since you first started until now?
Sejahari: It’s been a very interesting experience. I started very young and it’s always been a fun experience every year because usually every year the team changes. It’s very personal. One where you create family through thick and thin and you dive into the deepest parts of yourself and you share those deepest parts of yourself and you share those parts of yourself with people you may not think you’ll be sharing it with. As far as LTAB it’s been interesting to see the evolution of the competition. Slam in general can sometimes be a bit much for an artist when you’re trying to find yourself and share your stories with people who aren’t really about your growth. And there were times I felt like people in that community were trying to stunt my growth and stunt my team’s growth. I’ve overcome most of that competitive stuff because of the family we create regardless of the competition. The best part of LTAB to me is what happens behind the scenes when we’re creating our poetry or doing the all-nighters where we are constantly running our pieces and find new ideas to create on stage. Like i had the idea to create a plane on stage and we created a plan on stage and that was dope. With this being my last year I want to enter the competition with as much peace as possible with the community. I look forward to having a space where I absolutely feel safe in telling my story and I hope that comes from all slams around the world, and that has inspired me to one day create my own slams where people can feel that.
DP: What is the Kuumba Lynx style of slam poetry?
Sejahari: Kuumba Lynx’s style of poetry is rooted in Hip Hop theater. We put great emphasis in the performances that we give because every part of our being is for the stage. We go there when it comes to sub-text and feeling and emotion in our bodies in our tone of voice and in the way that we can connect as a unit and create pictures to enhance the feeling that we’re spewing. One of our biggest emphasis is on social activism and it’s a great part of our style and that’s what keeps us motivated. Our art is essentially always fighting something and from that fight we’re healing. We take the struggle and make it into a masterpiece and within that masterpiece we’re still fighting. Our style includes all of those different things. We like to educate as well as entertain. I feel like our coaches don’t give us boundaries to what we can do on stage which is very fun because I think that is what art is all about. It’s about creating something that no one has seen before. Our style is edutainment meets freedom meets creativity meets peace, love respect, ase.
DP: How does your involvement in Louder Than A Bomb and Kuumba Lynx affirm your journey towards joy, justice and liberation?
Sejahari: Everytime I come in this space I feel liberated and I know theres alot more liberation to come and I feel like Kuumba Lynx has always taught me to fight for liberation. If it wasn’t for fighting for liberation there would be no Kuumba Lynx. Everytime I come into this space I know what I’m here for and I know that the legacy of Kuumba Lynx is to always keep fighting for our rights and for the people and I will take that to wherever I go it’s in my blood, it’s in my DNA. Kuumba Lynx has pushed me to be the most creative thinker that I can be and to think about worlds where justice is possible and to think bigger than what we know, and I love that and I thank Kuumba Lynx for that.
DP: As the exitting team captain and this being your final year what are you hoping to leave with the team?
Sejahari: I just want to have the best experience that i’ve ever had in the comp. I feel like each year it gets worse and I want that to reverse. I want everyone on my time to go in and go their hardest but to still have fun and to spit their truth and we’re respected for it. I really want this to be a fun and fruitful experience. This is my last year I don’t want to have any boundaries. I want to really take all that we’ve been working for for years and years and put it all on the stage. I feel like Kuumba Lynx has generations in the org and in LTAB and I feel like this is kind of an end to a very dope generation, the end of a journey and the beginning of a new one and I cant believe its finally coming to a close for me. I’m ready to kill it.
DP: What would you say to a young latinX and black boy who was interested in joining Kuumba Lynx and the Kuumba Lynx slam team?
Sejahari: I would first open with peace love respect and ase and respect him for coming today (laughs) I would also tell him to be prepared for a journey, a beautiful one. One where you will grow in ways that you never thought you would and don’t limit yourself to what you think you can do. Be limitless and fly.
It has been amazing to watch Sejahari’s transition from baby to young adult and I think its safe to say Sejahari has been the face of Kuumba Lynx for quite some time and while the entire program and its affiliates will miss him immensely they are preparing to send him off to college with every ounce of love and prayer they can muster. We’re looking forward to the great things Sejahari has in store for the world. If you enjoyed getting to know Sejahari, check out #ViewsFromTheLynx next week when I sit down with Jessica D. a lyrical and spoken word genius.