“Stay up… ’till you come up…
when you come up stay up!”
― Johnnie Dent Jr.
Uprising by Muse
HOLD YOUR HEAD UP
by Kendall F. Person
When I walked into the St. Louis bookstore, 15 minutes before my planned performance, there was no way to mistake the fact, that I had overshot the popularity of Capturing Spring outside of the western states, for there was literally no one there, accept the owner. She and I made light conversation, both somewhat asking the other if there had been any promotions. But the 2000 miles I had driven, would not yet yield any sales or new fans, but it was a defining moment, thanks to my favorite cousin.
Fate Lamont Jackson – our mothers are sisters – is one of the few members of the Walker Clan to make a permanent home outside of the Rocky Mountains. When he walked into the bookstore, with 50 empty chairs facing a makeshift stage, he did not hold his head down in embarrassment, but rather sat in the front row, looking to seeing a show. After some silent encouragement from the store’s owner, I walked onto the stage and it was at that very moment, I decided an audience of one or a stadium of thousands, it would not matter. I was an artist and it was my work they came to hear. So I held my head up, and delivered a memorable reading to my cousin in a bookstore in St. Louis.
I have been tepidly searching for a writer, that speaks in my voice but not in my words, admittedly the idea comes from President Obama’s ‘mean’ interpreter. When my first choice Rodrigus Williamson declined my offer, I pushed idea to the back burner. However, the idea to speak in two voices, is not for entertainment as much as it is to reach deeper into demographics that I long to reach. And now would be the time, that I would yield the stage to Rodrigus. While I cannot feign his powerfully direct voice, he is one of a kind that I probably would have to edit, but neither do I have the luxury to ignore an ugly moment.
Collaborative shows are challenging simply by the nature. Shows like CITIES that have dozens of writers, and at far different comfort levels in both their skill as well as, their visibility in the public sphere. But even with The Championship Round yet to be played, and the fact that I am aware of the comfort that The Neighbiorhood audience gives, and so when a show of ten becomes three, they allow their imagination to fill in the blanks – to a certain degree – (chuckling) and my no fear of falling was a learned behavioral device, but when I see a teachable moment, I do not ignore it, but I treat it with literary gloves, when a Rodrigus approach may have been the solution, after all. Why the mental gymnastics? Because the alternative is that the intentions are bad and not their perceptions were off base.
The City of Baltimore was disqualified because their player plagiarized, and there is no bigger crime in a literary forum than the stealing of someone else’s imagination, converted into words. Three years ago he was thrown out without due process, for masquerading a song as his own. In neither case, was there such a benefit to him, to risk his young reputation and that of The Neighborhood’s, which I still believe he loves. And while the penalty is stiff, Baltimore has been disqualified and Keith has been expelled, because if he did not know 3 years ago, he certainly knew when he submitted an entire post word for word, that did not belong to him.
But I consider this a teachable moment, because he is of a generation that has been hijacked with everything, that begs us to download, embed and share. Perhaps the serious nature of the arts is overwhelmed by fun loving spirits that populate the more peaceful nature of ourselves. Perhaps, until it happens to you and the theft is monetary, that the ugliness and the emptiness and the cheating of someone else by plagiarism is not equated with breaking and entering, and taking items that one knows is not his. And I call this a teachable moment for him and others, because I cannot grasp, that someone I have worked with so closely, had his head down the whole time.
I do not know anyone, who would not prefer a comfortable life. But I do know the difference between an artist, whose integrity would not allow such selfish acts, but I do not know if I can the tell the difference, until it is revealed so blatantly, and that troubles me for I have mentored so many young people.
But one thing they all learn, is that jedi mind tricks only work for so long. And that The Neighborhood truly believes that we are controlled by our imagination and an impostor, we will eventually see. And if you are student, do not ever hold your head down if you have a question. Hold your head up, ask questions, do not cower from what you do not know or are unsure of. We become richer by the wisdom without suffering the indignity of being thought of or known to be a plagiarist in the midst of some of the world’s great writers.
Hard work, respect of commitment and a bloodlust to win, not default, has revealed our finalists. After 2 months, 32 cities and 4 challenges, on Nov 27 it’s CITIES The Championship Round ‘The Solution’
(6)Tampa vs (8)Montreal.