There’s Lots of Good Coming Out of Chicago’s Englewood Community

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blaq ice

Yes, you can call him a poet or a spoken word performer, but the more accurate term would be spoken word musician when you attempt to describe Blaq Ice, a Chicago-based activist, entrepreneur, and artist who’s internationally known to rock a microphone.

Oh, yes and just like Jennifer Hudson and Derrick Rose, he’s from Chicago’s Englewood community.

While attending Simeon High School (also the alma mater of Rose), Blaq Ice discovered the power of words. A fierce competitor in Rap battles, “Ice Cold the Ultimate Warrior,” as he was known, gained recognition for his powerful lyricism and dynamic performances.

The artist that would become Blaq Ice, placed first in Chicago’s All City Jamboree Competition’s Rap category above all other high school students competing. Upon his graduation from high school, Blaq Ice founded People of Extraordinary Talent (P.O.E.T.) in 1990.

Blaq Ice has even run for political office and in 2008, Blaq Ice was faced with a challenge that no one should have to face, for art or any reason. After a long and brave fight, he lost his eldest son to cancer at the age of 15. To his life and memory, the Tyrone Hawthorne Cancer / Scholarship Foundation began. The foundation raises funds for cancer research and awareness along with providing scholarship assistance for students to continue their education that may otherwise have to postpone. Blaq Ice’s poetry is more than a chronicle of society, politics and the nature of life; it is common place where artist and audience become one.

Blaq Ice Productions and P.O.E.T. is broadening the audience for spoken word with recent live performances outside the United States and P.O.E.T. membership growing overseas. Blaq Ice Productions mentors and develops emerging artists while offering representation and avenues for established artists in poetry, music and comedy. Ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, Blaq ice.

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Gilliard & Sons

What inspired you to do spoken word in the first place?
Writing poetry as a child, then becoming a successful rap artist as a teen helped to make a smooth transition to spoken word which is defined as performance poetry. Feeling like I had a message and a personal testimony made me feel like I could make a positive impact in this art genre.

I always loved words and public speaking, I felt like I was too old to be rapp’n at the time being in my early 30’s so spoken word gave me an opportunity to get back into what I loved—performing.

How would you describe your overall message?
My message is that God is bigger than any obstacle in your life; we are all gifted and with a gift come responsibility. Turn your mess into your message and your test into your testimony.

What books have most influenced your life most?
The Bible has been my biggest influence, beautiful poetry, life giving words, inspiring, challenging and comforting.

If you had to choose, which writer/poet/artist would you consider a mentor?
I would have to say that sax preacher (a Chicago saxophonist and minister) would have to be my biggest mentor coming up. As a teen he taught me not only the art of entertainment but the business of entertainment as well, he gave me a formula for success and I’m using that same formula from 20yrs ago, today.

What three living people would you love to meet that you haven’t yet?
Although I have shaken both of their hands and spoken with them, I would like to meet Minister Farrakhan and President Obama. The 3rd person I would like to meet is Prince, a great artistic inspiration.

blaqice

What three people no longer with us would you love to have dinner with?
Would love to break bread with Jesus a kick it with him and get some better understanding of his word, also Elijah Muhammad, his teachings have deeply impacted my life and last but not least Martin Luther King Jr. to understand better the discipline it takes to keep a movement alive as a leader.

What is the hardest part about what you do, writing or live performances?
Writing is by far the hardest, although I’ve been writing and performing since a child, I write about real life experiences, so it’s hard to go back and relive some of the moments but my testimony heals others. Performing is like riding a bike, however there must be skill involved a way to connect to your audience, writing and performing are both spiritual and spirit is what moves people to emotion. Some have cried, laughed, smiled become encouraged and inspired all at one performance.

 

poet

Why was it important for you to start P.O.E.T. (People of Extraordinary Talent)?
P.O.E.T was needed to turn words into actions. Let me explain, on the open mic poetry scene we talked about revolution, activism and unity but outside the poetry scene as a whole I didn’t see it. I saw a coffee shop book store art that needed a remix. So I decided to develop a plan to take poetry from the coffee shops, book stores and night clubs to auditoriums and theaters that held hundreds of people, that way are message could reach more people at once. It wouldn’t be easy because most poets have an individualist mentality, not wanting to share the stage, thinking they would loose their own individuality.

So being a 20yr organization already, for the 1st time I opened up for membership. I already had a core of poets willing to unite, so here we are 2yrs after open enrollment and P.O.E.T is now in 3 countries with chapters in Vegas, 3 in Michigan, Wisconsin, Joliet and of course the headquarters in Chicago and everywhere there is a P.O.E.T chapter, we are feeding the hungry, mentoring young people and using our poetry to “change the world one heart one mind one verse at a time.”

 DUSABLE STANDING ROOM ONLY

When’s the next Kings of Poetry event?
The pic above is the manifestation of the idea of P.O.E.T as an organization and what could be done in unity. On March 21, 2010 I through the sold out standing room only historical kings of poetry stage show at the DuSable Museum. Over 500 people came out and 100 had to be turned away to see a spoken word poetry show. Until that moment, poetry was considered a coffee shop book store art. Since that historical stage show in 2010, the queens of poetry and heirs to the throne stage shows (4 in total) have all been sold out with hundreds of people in attendance at every show.

Every year, the 3rd Saturday in March is the kings and queens of poetry, the Saturday before thanksgiving is the heirs to the throne and there is a new installment, the beauty and the lyrical beast to be held June 30, 2012. Taking a Steve Harvey role, introducing other talented poets, all of these shows are designed to honor poets who are making a contribution with their art.

About the author / 

Toure Muhammad

Author Toure Muhammad is the head bean, publisher and chief strategist of Bean Soup Times. The Morehouse graduate has written front page cover stories for The Final Call and N’digo. He has been featured in the Chicago Reader, Upscale magazine, rolling out newspaper, and N’Digo magapaper. He’s been featured on Tavis Smiley’s radio show on NPR, on Chicago’s WBEZ (Chicago public radio), and many other radio shows.

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