Open Mic: Voices Found

Written by Victoria Cepeda

In hard or good times, we all react and behave differently from each other. For some of us life’s ups and downs bring us to the white canvas of paper, a pen and the sweet smell of ink. We hope to be transported to a safe haven suspended in time. Our mind speaks by setting our hands in motion and with each stroke of the pen we give birth to word after word. At such moments we can’t stop the flow and sleepless nights become our norm. The byproduct, my friends, could be mediocre, inspirational, memorable or transcendental writing.

It is open microphone at the Nuyorican Poets Café where about 20+ crusaders will take to the stage; some for the first time, to speak out loud those words that for a while only existed in their heads and paper. Ready to step on the stage and up to the microphone is a group of very talented poets. Their ages range from 17 years of age to established old timers.

Papo “Swiggity” Santiago repeats as our lively and witty host. Papo would ask the audience ”strictly are you ready?” and we would respond with a “no pressure” to welcome each act to the stage. Our line up for the night is:

  • Raul K. Rios who was also the sponsor of the night’s event delivered a “rude awakening” poem about his “ex-wife” whose heart though as “pure as gold” beats for him no more. An ex-wife with gripping effect on him no more… heroin no more.
  • Rito –read an ode to long gone poets as well as our African ancestors in his ode “The Great Souls not Forgotten”.
  • Gringo Jeremiah Perez from the Bronx gave us “Virgin”.
  • Efrain Nieves recited a heartfelt “Broke Love” a testament of true love in spite of having nothing other than his feelings to offer. “I have nothing to extend, no money to spend, no name brand cologne, no diamonds, not one stone but I will never leave you alone, that’s my word” to a “can you deal with plain ole me” ending his love declaration with a “I surrender to your affection, only look one way, your direction…I see clearly through. All I have is this broke love to give you”.
  • Mala Fama, from Brooklyn brought us “Fear.”
  • Ngoma Hill gave a powerful interpretation of “On the Day the Pope Died.”
  • Mark Anthony Vigo realizes that he has been in love before “Yeah, But not Like This.” At intervals Mark’s emotions took over making his performance and message so much real because we have all loved before but there comes that one person that accepts us and gives us the strength to realize our dreams.
  • Henry “Ultimate” Boricua reminded us of the dire conditions Latinos experience in their barrios from racism to violence in his “This is our World” poem.
  • Bernice Sosa recounted in her “Resume” piece with clear and steady voice why often the undervalued and unappreciated role of a homemaker and stay at home mom exceeds any qualifications that could fit on paper.
  • Oshun Yoli spoke of those unseen forces that meet us at “Crossroads.”
  • 17 year old Stephanie Ortiz was our youngest poetess’ of the night. Her message was a tribute to her older sister whom she credited with keeping her alive.
  • Andrew “Tupac” Holder – on and off the stage he came and went to deliver a short and sweet, straight to the point “Resurrection.”
  • Taino Queen’s strength is that she embraces who she is in her “I Dig” piece. Strong like her mother she will speak her mind, no apologies, because she just does not give a “f*#k”.
  • Jennifer Ortiz’s wrote the gripping piece Set up from Birth.
  • Jennifer Mileni gave us “Azalea” who arrived in the New York area less than a year ago from  Puerto Rico enthusiastically greets every one with a “Buenos dias, buenas noches” as her hips gyrate from side to side beckoning the attention of the passers by. Eventually the seasons passed and although Azalea loves the city, it’s the colorful memories of her patria that rush in like a wave to help her warm and combat the Azufre that’s come to be of “Azalea”.
  • Helena D. Lewis was plain superb. A pro at the mic, Helena used her experience as a social worker dealing with hookers, people in parole, juvenile delinquents, abusive parents and so forth to deliver one of the strongest performances of the night “poem”.
  • Carlitos Manuel Rivera provided an excellent comic relief performance in his “I am Pedro Pietri Character” song. Hey his “Spanish broken here, English open there…de aqui pa’ alla y de alla pa’ aca…fo tu apestas” was upbeat and totally easy to relate to.
  • Tamara G’s “Awesome”, Michael Candelario’s “Prologue” and Just Jake’s “Salutation” followed each with messages of individuality and strength.

  • Albert TainoImage Areizaga was plain upset primarily at BP for poisoning his bacalao” in his “The Hose” piece decrying the status quo.
  • Christa Victoria sang a melodious “Journey of the Heart.”
  • Treasure told us the beauty of being ourselves because we are just like “Fingerprints”.

  • Surreal” from Northern Ireland came on stage next. Though he was unable to deliver his performance because the track record was not working properly the audience rallied behind him to help him get passed the hurdle. We heard a couple of lines from his rap and know that “Surreal” witness camaraderie that night enough to keep him going for a lifetime.
  • Finally Roberto Rios, III came on stage to provide us the last performance of the night. Both songs spoke of love and heartache and were delivered with heartfelt feelings.

These individuals have mastered the written and spoken word effortlessly unafraid and certain that their next breath will echo their plight or convey their joy. Tonight we witnessed them become victorious in finding a voice. I am just glad that they handle life’s ups and downs this way. It’s all inspirational if you ask me.


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2 Responses to “Open Mic: Voices Found”

  1. Peace n Blessings,

    As the founder of LatinosNYC is our sole purpose to give a voice to those poets who are afraid of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. Therefore LatinosNYC has came out with a monthly series of Open Mic for all to come and share what they having been wanting to tell the world but couldn’t. This series is a NO PRESSURE Series that will allow others to speak/spit freely in the time given to each poet and no one will be judge. So be in the look out as of JAN of 2011 for our monthly events to begin. We are so honored and grateful by this article that has been written on Papo Swiggity and LatinosNYC behalf.
    Raul Kahayarix Rios
    Spread The Word Together We Grow!!!

  2. Thank you Raul,

    It was my pleasure to attend and contribute my writing to promote the event. Hopefully, others will come and share their experience in a such moving way.

    Victoria Cepeda

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