CMA Stories

6 Fun Facts About Spoken Word

Join us on Sunday, February 24, for a celebration of the Black experience at CMA! CMA is presenting workshops and performances inspired by the African Diaspora from 10 am until 5 pm. Writer, art activist and cultural curator Kimberly Drew is hosting Story Time at 11 am and interactive performances will be held at  12:00 pm and 2:00 pm.

Raise your voice! Our Sound Booth workshop for the day is inspired by Spoken Word. We’ll be recording our own Spoken Word poetry inspired by Gabriel Ramirez’s “Realizing I’m Black.” To get us ready for our Black Culture Festival, here are six fun facts about Spoken Word, an artistic practice that reflects a rich literary and musical history.

1. Spoken Word is an umbrella term that includes poetry readings, poetry slams, jazz poetry and hip hop. Spoken Word differs from written poetry because of its emphasis on the rhythmic way words sound.

2. Spoken Word has its roots in oral history, that is, people collecting their histories through spoken language — not written. This oral tradition allowed people to carry their stories with them from Africa, maintain identity, survive, and resist racial oppression.

3. Notably, Langston Hughes was inspired by feelings of the blues and spirituals during the Harlem Renaissance — a period of artistic explosion in Harlem in the 1920s.

4. Spoken Word changed history during the civil rights movement with speeches like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have A Dream,” Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a woman?” and Booker T. Washington’s “Cast down your buckets.”

5. The Nuyorican Poets Cafe was founded in 1973 on the Lower East Side. It is one of the oldest American venues for Spoken Word.

6. Spoken Word still often surrounds ideas of social change and empowerment. It is an art form centered in social justice and civic engagement.

This program is supported, in part, by the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, the New York State Council on the Arts with support from Governor Andrew Cuomo, and public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. CIVICKIDS is sponsored by Google.

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