|A snapshot of pages from one of Dometi Pongo's notebooks in 2007
One day, he brought some of the notebooks by and let me flip through the pages. Traditional poems, rap lyrics, and various sketches of thoughts. What impressed me right off was how many apparently fully formed pieces that he had written. This then 18-year-old young man had three or so notebooks that were filled with his writings.
Over the years at SIUE, Dometi became one of our most accomplished and widely known students. In addition to his academic achievements, he stands as one of the most popular rappers and poets on campus. He organized rap shows and poetry events; produced and distributed musical compositions; and held it down for us on the Malcolm X Mixtape.
I'm sure he'll continue organizing a number events this fall (his last semester) and continue contributing to our program's various projects.
Looking back years ago when Dometi first shared those notebooks with me, I remain fascinated by the idea that he and other young writers (rappers and poets) arrived on campus with notebooks or other kinds of sketch pads filled with their thoughts on the world, which were molded into raps, poems, or various other kinds of short pieces.
I wonder about what more we could do to assist young folks develop their writing and conscious-building processes. I also wonder how widespread the practice of producing these "rhyme books" is and what compelled someone like Dometi to write so much. In his case at least, the writing was one step in a long process that also included live performances, the production of songs, videos, and collaborations with all kinds of artists on campus, in the region, and from his home in Chicago.
In some ways, notebooks like Dometi's are parts of largely undocumented black intellectual and scribal histories.