After several months of us having a fantastic time recording footage together and continuously bursting with creative fits, Plena produced a provocative piece of film and placed it in my hands like a fresh newborn. Plena meshed images of me in various locations, played with sources of light and shadow and gave the piece a sense of movement by depicting travel by car, train, foot and most importantly, the pen. Set to penetrating music by Ray Barretto and a lofty guitar piece he wrote for me called Y.A.I.A.I.S.T.B., I was immediately struck by the combination of nostalgia & longing coupled with pride & strength that he inspired. The push to succeed as an individual and as a people struck me and inspired the piece Soñamos y Lucharemos. We would share it at the Capicu Poetry & Cultural Showcase which was also billed as a birthday celebration for Co-founder George "Urban Jibaro" Torres', feature Lemon Andersen and me! YAY! Good times! The event itself felt as if it was destined. Curtains up for Bomba y Plena.
His booming voice pushed through the air like thunderclap. Roberto Plena Irizarry delivered a piece about the struggle and plight of women in a misogynistic patriarchal society. He pounds the audience with the question, "How many licks does it take to get to the center of a cancerous breast?" Thus begins our most official debut as one of the rare poetry couples in the scene. Enter Bomba y Plena.
Upon the fist few pops of percussion, my voice rang out deep and confident that it would lend itself to what he had created. Two minds, one spirit. Each scene was created with love. That in itself guarantees impact. It's moody and mobilizing effects on the crowd were evident by the reception with which our presentation received. People wore proud smiles, jawed dropped, they nodded their heads in solidarity, shouted and rushed us with hugs, accolades, some with tears in their eyes. Amidst all of the positive feedback from friends and peers the words "unique, powerful, moving, touching, different, amazing, beautiful" soaked into my skin. We embraced feeling the moment stamped in the timeline of spoken word history. It was a milestone for us for many reasons.
As fabulous as that moment had been it was now time to get to the anxiously awaited feature, our beloved Spit King, Lemon Andersen. In October we'd seen County of Kings, shared the script which we were ecstatically privy to as I'd been blessed with it by his press people as a poetry blogger; we watched his YouTube clips in an effort to absorb some of his awesomeness by osmosis, by learning through observation. We talked about that evening for months savoring one of the shining memories we'd shared in our first few weeks together. Lemon was part undoubtedly part of the Bomba y Plena landscape. And now here we sat perpendicular to Lemon, underneath his words, sitting with my feet literally on the stage. I could feel every bounce, step, his rhythm along with the rumble of his voice bounced through me. Plena recorded every sound, movement and nuance. It was glorious art penetrating the fabric of our lives and relationship.
We floated back to the Bronx recollecting out first experience with Lemon, watching his play captivated by every word. Now we'd opened for him at the showcase where Plena had first seen me on a night that I was the featured artist. Plena and I had stepped out to try something new together successfully. And elated we mused, "It's only the beginning."
descendants of the hopeful and the practical whose
dreams tacked down the uneven path for who we are today
leaving all that they knew to follow a dream into the unknown
from barro to concrete
children of the the juanitas, marias y jaimes
left to stand in stead for their honor
crushed by an opportunistic system that then pointed at them
as an example of inferiority and cultural failure
those who stomp statistics
because we write
we write scrawling while blazing new paths
from the bx, to manhattang, to the bk, out into queens and alllllll the way to staten island,
we are more than enough
the fruition of the hard work of the the piraguero, the frutero, the seamstress half blind yet peering into the future
told to give up while reaching out with yearning hands and hearts
hasta en la luna
we live out our dreams
no longer allowing ourselves to be seen as an invisible mass
allowing self love to wash away the doubt
taking 10 steps forward
each one taking position
using all of the best in us that our heritage has to offer
because we are all
a renaissance is upon us
we live in a spirit of unity that pushes past all who come against us
we hold onto to one another
grab on tight in familial faith and love
raise each other up in the spirit of progress
our voices harmonize
powered by the silent primal screams of our elders
we are those who rise up on behalf of those
who took 5 steps forward and were pushed 3 steps back
we dance 10 steps forward
we are the vanguard
with every generation separated from patria we lose words
but are blessed with a new identity
a language birthed in Nuyorico
shouted out into the world
y con eso
Special thanks to Papo "Swiggity" Santiago and George "Urban Jibaro" Torres for giving us the green light and embracing us as Capicu fam.
To watch the footage of Lemon's performance for that night visit our YouTube Channel: BombaPlena