Last night I was introduced to three amazing young artists: Amani Ward, Yoni Light and ShaVunda Brown. They were all selected by PaviElle French to perform as part of the Art is series at TPT. Each performed and then answered a few questions from PaviElle; each clearly had a nurturing relationship with PaviElle and a strong sense of community. It was awesome to see how each had thought about how her community had an impact on her and how she would have an impact on her community.
It was also awesome to see the community in the audience supporting the performers. It would be nice to bump this show up to LowerTown Line status. To get the promotion and production power of LowerTown line behind these women to help lift them up – because they are worthy of the heights! And the audience deserves to be let into this powerful community.
First to the stage was Amani Ward, starting with George Gershwin’s Summertime. She has been performing since she was 8, which maybe wasn’t all that long ago. She’s young but her voice is powerful and she has ease on stage. She chose a set list that include greats from the past – such as Nina Simone. When asked about her greatest influence the answer was – her mom. So already I love her. She was wise beyond her years when she spoke about learning to have the confidence to present yourself in your situation.
Second to stage was Yoni Light, a multi-disciplinary artist who sings, dances and does spoken word. She’s inspiring. Like the other young women, she had a message for all ages. She said she had learned that she didn’t have to sacrifice herself to give. That is a message I hope my daughters hear. That is a message that I hope I learn to heed. She has the grace of movement and presence of someone stays in control, someone who takes it to the edge but will only cross the line on her own rules.
Finally ShaVunda Brown took the stage. She is a young mother, originally from Texas and came up here for the Guthrie. She is wow! The imagery of her poetry is vivid, so even if you haven’t been in her shoes you feel like you get it – a little. She speaks (and I abbreviate hugely) ” My name is poetry …blues… jazz… hip-hop…the residue of resilience.” She has a poem about the creativity of African American names. There’s a wonderful line about how these might not be names designed for a resume’ – they are names for becoming the owner! How wonderful! A new lens. Well, a new lens for me and I have gratitude that I got to see through it for a night. Her presence is luminary.