Saturday, May 19, 2012

Covering Dometi Pongo's Ex-Slave at MIZZOU

Wednesday, April 25, at my mixed media poetry exhibit at the University of Missouri Columbia (Mizzou), I included Dometi Pongo's piece "Ex-Slave" from the Malcolm X Mixtape in the line-up of poems. At the end of the presentation, a 10-year-old girl named Alyssa who attended the event with her father asked questions and offered a suggestion.

Her suggestion was that maybe our future exhibits could include different versions of pieces in the exhibit. We might present rappers performing poems, and poets performing raps. What she was suggesting could be viewed as how jazz artists, for instance, cover popular tunes.

Since I had one of my recorders, I asked Alyssa if she wanted to put what she was suggesting into practice. She did. We selected Pongo's piece "Ex-Slave" as our test case. Pongo performs the work as a rap, so Alyssa read it as a poem.

Here's an excerpt of Pongo's "Ex-Slave":
Spent my whole life livin on this plantation
All I know is devastation and pain from the lacerations
Papa died when I was five, committed suicide,
Say if he couldn't be free no point in bein alive
So I took his advice tried to run 3 times
But I swear this time y’all, it ain't gon be the same
Word round here is they got an underground railroad
And Ima be the first one up on the train
Harriet Tubman picked me up round 8
And I was surprised cuz honestly I thought Moses was a dude
But anyway, before I leave tell my people goodbye
And ask the house slaves to poison massa food

Here's Alyssa reading:

Ex-Slave Alyssa by blackstudies

Here's Pongo's performance:
Ex-Slave Prophecy by blackstudies

The Transformative Possibilities of Black Poetry

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