DENVER —A calm, quiet, overcast afternoon called for tea and good company.
This was the case Sunday, May 14, at TeaLee’s Teahouse & Bookstore, located in the heart of historically Black Five Points. Guests listened to free music and performances from five local Black poets: SETH, Truth the Poet, Words With Em, Q and La Terra Cole.
The poetry and music event marked the first live event at TeaLee's since it opened in 2018. The teahouse and bookstore is a passion project for Risë Jones, a Denver native who opened TeaLee's after beating a rare form of leukemia.
SETH and Truth the Poet have performed together for over 15 years. They described their partnership as a “mix of lyrics and spoken word of music.” At TeaLee's, Truth played the guitar and sang while SETH was hand-drumming on bongos.
Black poetry at TeaLee’s Teahouse & Bookstore
SETH explained his style of poetry and how being a Black man influences his creative process, saying it originates from his love of language and experimenting with words.
“In terms of just Black poets, we have a unique experience, though the way we experience this country is specific to us. Just like people who are Hispanic, the way they experience this country is specific to them,” he added.
“There are things that are universal and then there are things that are specific to those groups. And so, I think for Black poets and so on, it’s important for us to share our experiences and so on,” he said, adding that the point is to find commonality. “[So] that we see we’re not alone and there is something common and when we join together, we can actually do things to create change.”
One of Cole’s poems focused on when she visited Uganda for work. She shared a pivotal moment during her stay when she saw a young boy underneath a tree. She approached him to say hello, saying he looked at her and said, “Mazunga?” Mazunga, or mzungu, is a Swahili word “white westerner.” In that moment, she realized the little boy recognized her American accent and knew she was not from Uganda. Cole said this memory is something she will always keep because it helps her recognize her stance as a “Black person, an American person, and as a Black person in another country.”
SETH advises those who want to get into poetry to first “just do it.” Then, he said, “hang on to the insecurity” and always remain humble.
“The more you do anything — and that’s something that I’ve learned not only has a writer, as a musician — the more time you put into it simply the better you get at it,” SETH said.
Lindsey Ford is a multimedia journalist with Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach her at email@example.com.
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