Color of Drums: the power of the spoken word

By Jerome Stuart Nichols | Life Editor
Added January 18, 2012 at 8:52 pm

The spoken word is a powerful tool. Words can build and words can destroy.

For civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., words were tools to change a nation and bring together people who otherwise might have never acknowledged each other’s existence.

To start the a five day celebration of the slain leader and in recognition for all of the things he helped accomplish, what else could one do but to speak?

Friday, Jan. 13 the 11th annual Color of Drums took the stage at Pease Auditorium
as people spoke up and out. Presented by the Poetry Society, The Color of Drums is an annual spoken word event featuring live performances of poetry, spoken word and other expressionistic performance art forms.

This year’s performance featured an introduction and performance by renowned spoken word artist Adam Faulkner and an inspired dance performance by Diversion Dance Troupe.

The theme of the night was “The strength within… when believing is the last resort.” Each performance addressed the theme, as it relates to their experiences with race and the difficulties it creates, in their own specific style of the spoken word.

Starting off the night, hosts and Poetry Society alums Blake Odum and Mae Kyles introduced Michigan-born and New York-based spoken word artist Adam Faulkner. He used his time to tell stories about his experiences with being a white man. He read pieces that spoke on topics of self-doubt, proving himself and white privilege.

Faulkner’s unique point of view, soulful delivery and thought-provoking set seemed to hit a nerve with the audience, who awarded him with purposeful snaps and claps at the end of his fifteen-minute, five-piece set.

Following Faulkner was a performance entitled “Mind vs. Soul.” It was a performance by poets Sarah Shannon, Rannie Johnson and Cullen “Atlas” that took the audience through their experiences with race and acceptance.

This performance finds our three young, straight jacket clad poets in an asylum
for the mentally disturbed. Through the pantomime of insanity, they are able to explain their side of the story and let the audience know that, “I’m not crazy.”

Next up was a performance by Mechelle Parham and Amy Mans entitled “Ground Zero.”
In this piece, the poets used the tragedy of 9/11 to set the scene for the story of their own personal tragedies.

The performance began with a human re-enactment of the Twin Tower collapse, which allowed the poets to rise from the proverbial ashes.

Their stories focused on bad relationships, but were really stories about finding strength. Their stirring performance was rather well received by the audience, who applauded gleefully as the poets exited stage left.

Following “Ground Zero” was a piece by Brittany Floyd, Tequila Wells, Ashley Adams and Natalie Stroynoff entitled “Minority Report.”

This piece found our poets as performers in a circus, as an allegory for the circus of life. After showing off their individual skills, we were transported backstage where the poetry and experiences took on a darker tone.

Although the performance stumbled at times, the message was still effective. The audience seemed to the frank honesty and expressive performance style in this particular piece.

Next was an intermission, which featured a well-choreographed dance routine by Diversion Dance Troupe. Diversion performed to the popular song “Tyrone” by neo-soul artist Erykah Badu.

After intermission came a piece called “Optical Illusions” performed by Constance Clark, Tiran Burell and Poetry Society President Ivory “VC” Harris.

“Optical Illusions” was a story about judging each other based upon their dress or the way they behave in particular moment. Set in a house party type situation, the three poets confronted their expectations of one another. It was a reminder of the old adage, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”

The most subdued piece of the night came from Nadine Marshall and Jason Ford as the penultimate performance of the show. “Letters to God” was set in a cafe, with Ford and Marshall as patrons. Individually they wrote letters to God asking for help, clarification and understanding, while going about their lives.
Ending the night was “Breaking the Glass Ceiling.”

Set in a bar, this piece, performed by Jennifer Montgomery, Gabe “Da Poet” and Nicole “Box Head,” addressed the topics of career and success. Through the guise of overworked and unappreciated office workers, the poets told their stories and helped close the night on a high note.