The last few posts have been centered on exploring creatives and artists in the LGBT community. There are some absolutely wonderful and generous spirits who have agreed to share their art and work with me but there is one brave poet (and singer… and spoken word artist… ) who I just had to share with you. Joslin Kearse, also known as “Soul Cry”. More than an artist, Joslin is a mom, a veteran, and a devout Christian who sees poetry as her form of ministry. I love how she exemplifies the diversity of what makes up US.
Simply put, as an artist I feel that my purpose is to give life and love through poetic verses, through song and through music. Aside from performing poetry I also sing backup with a local band. I do this because I love it. And while the ultimate goal is to positively impact at least 1 person, sometimes I do perform [just] for me. Sometimes being on stage is a form of sanctuary for me. It’s the place where my cares and frustrations disappear. It’s similar to the feeling you get when you hear Nas sing “All I Need Is One Mic” and you think to yourself “Yeah, that’s all I need”. I suppose that my “orientation” does impact my work but I don’t see as being impactful as much as being integral. I am who I am and that is evidenced in my work.
As an artist myself, I feel like making ANY kind of art means feeling emotions more intensely. Feeling them intensely enough to be able to express them with immediacy and passion even months the triggering event has passed. You also have to be brave enough to put those feelings on display for the world, to bring your audience into a space and time with you. It’s the kind of fearless courage that many LGBT people have to possess just to be “out” in their identity.
I’ve noticed that people have typically responded well to my work. I’ve not experienced any overt discrediting based on my orientation. I generally get positive feedback from people who have heard me. If there is any negative feedback (which I am open to criticism) people tend to keep it to themselves. I still perform at open mics, varying festivals, intimate spoken word venues and sometimes churches. Though I perform at fewer churches than I previously did. Not because of a lack of invitation but because in my experience poetry has been treated as a form of entertainment versus being considered an actual form of ministry.
One of the things that intrigued me about Soul Cry is that she has not only lived and performed here in Pennsylvania, she has spent considerable time overseas, even winning a very prestigious award in 2014 at an international poetry festival in Europe. She is a born and bred Pennsylvania who has stayed centered around the York and Harrisburg area so I was curious about how being a ‘PA Gay’ stacks up to being ‘in the life’ in much more progressive or conservative cultures.
Having been afforded the opportunity to represent the U.S. overseas as a poet was an amazing at the least and overwhelmingly indescribable at best. Being able to hear poets from around the world read their work in their native tongue and still be able to feel their passion and intention without understanding their language caused me to marvel at the power and beauty of poetry. While in Macedonia, I was well received. I was different in many ways. I was the only black person, the only spoken word artist and like the only out lesbian but that had little impact on how I was treated. I did get some odd looks but that is par for the course with being nonconforming. The young people especially showed me love and hospitality. They kept asking to take pictures with me. I wasn’t offended at all because I realized that many of them had never seen a black person in real life before. It’s laughable how cool they thought I was. When I told them that I have a son their age they couldn’t believe it. I even got a marriage proposal from a 22 year old Macedonian man who maintained his offer even after I told him I was 40 with a wife of my own and 4 children. I was grateful to be out of the country again. It had been 20 years since I had been to Europe. Back then I was in the Army and was straight-ish but little was different regarding my ability to meet people and connect with people and establish relationships. The only difference is 20 years ago I came home with a son. This time I came home with lasting memories and gratitude for the people who afforded me the opportunity to go by contributing to my GoFundMe account and especially for Equality Fest for making up the difference.
It was Joslin who introduced me to the term “She-ro”. That brave, feminine, take-no-prisoners part of a woman that represents her empowered best. Whether the protective mother lion, the passionate warrior goddess, or the alluring siren, I believe every woman has a she-ro inside of her, just waiting to be claimed. When meeting Joslin, her strength is obvious but unpretentious. Her survival instinct is an undeniable as her talent and wherever Soul Cry goes, it is hard to imagine her not making it her own.
Over here, I’ve experienced far more difficulty in life for being dark skinned than for being of an alternative lifestyle. I cannot say where is better. I can only say here is home whether better or worse.
Your eternal words
into the power of
black poetic femininity
A grace once anathema
compelling me to inhale your audacity
shed teenaged tomboy skin
and emerge a lady
With a saunter in my step
a pep in my stride
shoulders pressed back in defiance
breasts resting high
Nose to the sky
paying homage to the sun
the ancestors, now you
all watching from above
Leading me inward to find
my hearts gold mines
the diamonds of meter and rhyme
at the meeting of my thighs
Pushing me deeper
where enlightenment dwells
where consciousness voice
breaks for like oil wells
past insurmountable odds
the bludgeoning of circumstance
the changing of tides
Because you Mother Maya, I know I’ll rise
Like the desert’s dust
in the Saharan dusk
or morning mist from Tamarisk scaly
at every turn and test of my mettle …I’ll Rise
Like the moon in illuminated perpetuity
Leaping forward into the call of destiny
Progeny of the universe vast and wide
Steeped in the traditions of our foremother’s pride
Loving beyond their shame, pain and oppression
Endowed with their beauty, legacy and lesson
Bearing the gifts that Mother Maya gave
Fulfilling the dream and the hope of the slave