Last night I was invited to perform at an open mic event hosted by my town's art committee. As you can imagine, I was nervous and excited. This would be my fist event where I invited my children, ages 5,8, and 11 to see mommy perform. Having met the MC at a previous event, I volunteered to go first to warm up the crowd. There were about 30 people in attendance, lights dim and children coloring to soft jazz music. Good vibes. As the music came to a stop, the MC introduced me. Of course, I plugged my book that is releasing this month and gave the title of my poem. After that, I'm not sure what happened. Over the course of my 3 minute recitation, my audience went from energetic and open to completely shut down. I received polite claps and as I walked back to my seat, I realized that this was the first time I ever bombed a performance. Later that night, while talking to my hubby in bed he told me "you're performance was great. They just weren't ready for the content". His words cycled through my mind.
The poem I read was called Middle Class and reflected on how middle class liberals like myself have certain expectations; especially in a small liberal college town. I spoke about how we, as these middle class liberals do just enough to feel good about ourselves; to challenge the system but not break it because breaking it would me we lose our way of life. I admit the crowd was majority white people between the ages of 20 and 45 give or take. I was forced to ponder, is my perspective skewed or was my husband right, they were just not ready for that truth?
Here is an excerpt from the poem:
"This middle class life will have you hating the fact that you spent
7 years in college to get 2 degrees and still struggle sometimes to get necessities
Go to church every now and then to get anointed
Forgetting that church is as a poignant example of the haves and the have nots
Drop a few dollars in the collection plate for those sleeping in the basement on cots because they lost everything
They can hear us shouting let freedom ring because we elected that black guy to the highest office
While putting our babies into tiny coffins because healthcare is just too expensive
We can’t afford quality AND have defenses to protect our middle class way of life
Doing just enough to feel like I am a part of the solution
To this backwards evolution of democracy"
Being Black in America we are afforded only one privilege: that is what W.E.B. Du Bois termed Double Consciousness. Minorities, specifically Black people can see two separate worlds within America and we must negotiate them all the time. Perhaps my listeners, as liberal as they are, were unable to reconcile the theme of my poem. Maybe my poem really did suck along with my performance. I would love to know your thoughts and experiences.
I have a B.A. in Political Science, an A.D. in Nursing and a keen interest in writing about the whole person