At Capicu Poetry, Talent Is An Understatement

By Victoria Cepeda

Our latest adventure would take us to 198 Union Avenue, otherwise known as Notice Lounge, in Brooklyn. Capicu Poetry was scheduled to  kick off another exciting open mic session where the word talent proved to be an understatement when referring to all those that graced the stage. So, yes we were pumped up.

Did you know that Capicu Poetry is a grassroots cultural house of poetry and performing arts in New York City that was formed in Brooklyn? It was founded in March 2007 by Juan “PaPo Swiggity” Santiago and George “Urban Jibaro” Torres. Capicu features both veterans as well as up and coming performers of spoken word, prominent visual artists, entrepreneurs, comedians and selected musical guests. Their mantra is to educate & entertain, in order to culturally enrich and empower our neighborhoods.

  Upon arrival, two and a half hours later, a small crowd had already gathered outside the lounge waiting for the show to kick off.  Immediately we spotted a noticeably pumped “Urban Jibaro”  who warmly extended his hand in greeting and ushered us through the door where none other than “La Boricua Goddess” also know as “The First Lady of Capicu” or “La Doña de la Casa” made us feel at home.  When asked how to describe  her role at Capicu, George Torres says that  “Lisa (her real name) is the first person to welcome you to Capicu, in corporate terms, she is the Guest Relations Manager. She identifies the needs (and moods) of our guests and reacts quickly to get them resolved.” 

 The audience was on their way to be treated to a star line up by rookies and veterans at the mic. They would hold nothing back. The main features of the evening were Hip Hop Poet/Activist Majestik Originality (member of El Grito de Poetas) and Albert “TainoImage” Areizaga. Very hush-hush were some inspirational and powerful well known spoken word artists that tried to blend in with the crowd (to be incognito) but failed miserably. I mean whenever someone whose work you admire is in the house, the news travels like wild fire. Right?

 La Sensacion del Bloque, of Radio Capicu, was our lively hostess for the first part of the evening with Papo Swiggity taking over later on for the second half of the evening.

 Albert “TainoImage” Arreizaga opened up the night with a slideshow of his compiled professional photography artwork that featured the late Tito Puente, Celia Cruz and other artists as well as photographs taken on 9/11. As the slide show concluded Albert proceeded to recite his  thought provoking “Por el tambor Dios Habla” as Willie Villagas accompanied him with his congas.  But before that,  Albert told us about a particular story that will stay with me for years.  It was the day of his graduation when, excited to be the first one in his family to complete high school, he expected to get a brand new pair of shoes. Coincidentally, his mami had thought of the same. That day Albert spotted a pair of “brown” shoes.   His mother had set out to make her son’s wish come true but in a very ingenious (metaphorical) way. She took Albert’s old shoes and painted them brown. Albert exclaimed, something along the lines of “Mami I wanted brand new shoes”.  To this remark, his mami answered, “these are brown new shoes”. Priceless.

All the acts that followed were meriting our respect and recognition. At Capicu you get the feeling that all are welcomed and appreciated.  Open mics affords participants and audience alike the opportunity to forget about hardships, heartaches, desillusions and struggles by talking about it. This is where unfortunate events transform into empowerment, fulfillment and accomplishments. These are healing sessions exacerbated by the site of a microphone.  

The very accomplished yet humble R0ck Wilk delighted us with a powerful rendition of a poem he wrote for his  ex girlfriend’s grandfather. In it, Rock denounced the neglect and abuse inflicted by a grandfather to a young granddaughter that marred her for life. Then there was Tatoo’s anguished ode to his late grandmother reflected on how drug addiction tend to hurt those that love us the most. Luckily for Tatu he reached his dying abuela just in time to ask her forgiveness and receive it. Ngoma Hill proved once again his mettle and command of the spoken word.

Tomas Montalvo’s sexually explicit piece hit home with the audience because it was honest, real and transparent.  All subtleties aside, he made sure to let us all know, in detail, how a man thinks when he is on a quest to please his woman.

Pa’Lante’s own Efrain Nieves delivered “An American Dream” decrying the lack of support in urban schools where “teachers become bullies, outsourced jobs and pension plans are robbed by corporate thugs. Where a Spanish, African, Taino is full of anger and frustration…where illusions of a scheme are sold to the Puerto Rican in the back with no future“. Later on Bernice Sosa-Izquierdo’s  “Simplemente Yo” left not doubt that there is nothing simple about her. Though born in the U.S., Bernice’s family was no stranger to poverty, homes with zinc roofs and dirt floors where the little things such as listening to the rain hit the zinc roof brought comfort. In time young Bernice would go on to graduate from New York University, an Ivy League school. Therefore, she is an example that there is no limit to what we can accomplish when motivated and determined to “break free”. 

NYC Latina Writers Group were amazing. Each story told by the these ladies were far too common and familiar. A child star performer is used to feed the family, pretty girl stuck in the Dominican Republic, immersed in poverty sees a way to make “dinero rapido” by selling her body to the highest bidder. Her dreams take her to “Nueva York,” where her curves and beautiful face will surely land her a modeling contract. Then there was the story of another woman, also in DR, willing to do anything for her family to gain a passage out. To that effect she marries a much older “European,” all the while desiring nothing but the touch of her lover. This is the tale of a woman who has never been with a man because her heart belongs to another woman.  Costly prices to pay for a dream but far too real and prevalent in our communities and Latin American countries.

Our trip back to Jersey ended up at 4:00 am after having navigated the various subway lines and arriving late into Port Authority for the 1:15 am bus home. As we sat on the floor, half asleep, waiting for the 3:30 am bus, we were still numb and excited to have been participants of such camaraderie and unmatched level of orgullo de lo nuestro. Cannot wait to do it all over again.

Capicu Poetry Website:

Artists of the night: Tone Arce, Carlos Manuel Rivera, Mark Anthony Vigo, Jennifer Ortiz, Mental Sins, Jose A. Arias and  many more.

Photos by: Albert “TainoImage”  Areizaga, George Luis Acevedo, Ericka Maizonet, Mark Anthony Vigo and Jose A. Arias

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