Drama & Disappointment Part 2

Posted: August 3, 2010 in Rocks in my path

Have you ever been so angry and offended by someone’s comments and approach to a situation that you wanted to tell them (loudly and maybe infuse a few obscenities) that they’re idiots? Of course you have – we all have!  Not claiming to be perfect, but when someone – a business owner in my community, tells me that she doesn’t want our poetry “scaring her white customers” and tells me that “the black people who come in are cheap and drink too much tea and don’t buy anything” and who laughs about a man who was laid off, and I quote, “oh the man that ain’t got no job??” I have to draw the line at remaining silent. Let me explain and then maybe you can tell me if I’m wrong or expecting too much. Oh, and before you continue reading, I’ll admit I have a bias because I am a writer and I feel like a rule should apply equally across the board – not change in service or welcome based on color or skin or how much money you spend. Okay, disclaimer over…

Awhile back in the happy days, I was invited to promote and host poetry at a local venue right outside the city where I live. I worked with a poetry partner to invite people, go to events and promote the gig as well as this business owner’s place and our poetry nights. I wanted to do this because I love sharing my poetry, adore my poetry partner’s work and finally felt like the community we were building with poets of all types, singers and novelists was both necessary and fun.

The business owner had some specific rules, to which she is entitled as the owner. One rule was no obscene language. I didn’t like it but understood her perspective and adhered to the rule…until I heard the comedians performing at her place who were using the word “fuck” (among others), as verbs, adjectives

and nouns – all in the same joke!  When I asked why they were allowed to curse and we poets weren’t, she didn’t answer directly but stated that they brought in a “decent crowd who purchase a lot of beer”. She categorized them as young white college students. Okay…I was starting to not feel so happy but I continued to ask what was the difference between us and them. Finally she agreed that one or two curse words here or there would be acceptable by poets. Yay! Small battle won – or so I thought. Didn’t realize a bigger storm was brewing…

One night she asked a poet not do a poem because of the content and the repeated use of the dreaded “n word”. He didn’t like it and left. I thought the piece was a good one because of the message but again, I understood her perspective because she is the owner. However recently, another poet did a wonderful piece on how slaves were deemed less-than-human (shocker, I know!) and how the phrase, ”

not worth his salt” was used to describe the usefulness or worth of a human. He used the “n word” twice in a 4 minute piece. On the next poetry date, the owner asked me if the poet would be doing that same piece again because…wait for it…she didn’t want us to “scare her white customers” and that it’s “not a rap crowd”.

Anyway, she said she needed to stop us from “disrespecting her place” and needed to stop using obscenities going forward. Yes, apparently a young black man talking about slavery at an open mic poetry spot for grown folk is scary to white patrons – not to mention his presumed association with a rap world full of felons and debauchery and god knows what else! Never mind that all of the (two) white patrons in the crowd (of approx. 30 people) loved this young man’s voice, flow and writing. How do I know? They told me and they told him! Never mind that the piece was not derogatory or demeaning to black people, was not threatening to white people but was a good reminder to all of the descendants of slaves in the U.S. to be proud of what your ancestors have accomplished and to keep pushing towards your dream.

So that’s it in a nutshell. Am I wrong for thinking this business owner is biased and assumes knowledge about how white and black people think, feel and behave? I concede that as the owner she has the right to make the rules but I don’t agree that she should change the rules based on the color of the crowd or the amount of money either group spends. Needless to say, I don’t feel as if I should support someone who doesn’t support me. Oh, and if you don’t understand poetry and art in general, and the purpose of it, please don’t try to take advantage of those who enjoy the Arts in the hopes of just making a quick buck.

Thank you. The end.

Peace, Natasha

  1. Toni says:

    There will forever be people who will try to profit off of the talents of others. They will give them rules, regulations and put stipulations on the work of others to taylor it to fit what they need it for. These artists are giving away their services. Nothing is being made. The artists are putting themselves out there to see their poetic peers and to be heard by their peers and those who appreciate their art form. And to have their words, thoughts and actions scrutinized is a horrible way of showing “you are wanted here”. I applaud your eyes being opened to what was happening. I know you are not the only one, but how many others will get fed up and follow suit?

    • Very true Toni! I feel like the artists who show up (after paying at the door) & entertain the owner’s patrons get exposure but no other reward, including respect from the owner who profits off their words & performance. My thing is, don’t allow poetry or art if you want to limit it and don’t allow comedians to curse if poets can’t – just be fair to all. But wishful thinking gets us nowhere, right? This is where “put up or shut up” comes Into play so I’m practicing what I preach but walking away from a venue that allowed me to connect with many good people.

      I am a bit sad that some peers see and hear what’s happening and accept it or “suck it up” because they want the audience and venue to showcase their work. But to me, silence indicates agreement.

      Thanks for reading and for your thoughts!

  2. beinggreen1 says:

    I’d sure as hell be looking for new venue.

    • I am – I’m going online!!! If people can come see us, I am confident they’d love to take us wherever they go or at home in a nice big comfy chair 😉

      Thanks beinggreen1 – nice new name, btw 😉 for reading & feedback!

  3. FTS says:

    Man Fuck them ppl….im tired of ppl using us artists….this is still slavery. I can only say certain things…cuz u said so(slavery). Other ppl can do what ever and nothing happens(bullshit) and u still charge me to get in but still tell me what i can and not do(fuck you). Take this shit online where you cant be censored….im there, count me in.

    FTS aka Nat Turner

    • Ohhh YEAHH!! FTS aka Nat Turner: You make an interesting point about slavery. I would have understood her position if it was a family event with kids but this is a spot for grown folks who interestingly enough, get really into the so-called controversial pieces.
      Also, as a biz owner, if you don’t think you’re selling enough, boost your sales with (as a twitter friend mentioned), a 2 drink minimum or something similar. Don’t go round ripping off the artists who pay to come perform for your paying patrons for nothing in return.

      THANKS for the boost! I’m definitely counting you in. Some don’t believe it can be done & be well-attended but I’m chasing away negative fools and have faith that by showcasing talent, people will tune in to a free online venue and realize what true art is about…and it ain’t a damn dollar!

  4. Terry says:

    *applause* I admire you for having the guts to make a stand and do what is right for all. I will support your efforts in any way I can. There is a great wealth of talent that should be exposed and admired.

    • Thanks Terry! I know I did the right thing and I’m counting on that paying off by allowing the world to see us. You’ve been supporting my writing since we met and I truly appreciate you for it!! I think of friends around the U.S. like you and many others who support but unfortunately, don’t get to experience the flow of a piece by a poet so I want to not only highlight that poet, novelist, singer, etc I want you to feel the same inspiration we feel when sharing it.
      Thanks for believing!!! Gotta take a stand for what I believe in if I want others to trust that a true artist community is what I’m building, right?

  5. MrQ45 says:

    Wow. I think it’s time to find a new venue. The owner clearly has issues. Perhaps she’s a failed poet and seeing this brings up bitter memories? Or she might just be a jerk.

    • MrQ45!! First off, I’m happy I didn’t ruin your day with this post 🙂 I’m always glad to have you stop by. Maybe you’re right about a failed artist – there was a time I was told to pull a poet off because she wanted to close early (but didn’t tell me till she was ready to close :/ ) and when I said I didn’t want to, she later told a friend, “it’s not like she [the poet] was good”. Anyway, I know there are people who appreciate art in a variety of forms and I refuse to let my hobby be soured by other people’s negativity! Your tweet one day asking why I didn’t post a new piece for awhile made my week, so thank you for your support and feedback. How’s your music coming? What’s new?

  6. Adam Turnage III says:


    She is a mutant… a result of a genetic experiment gone south!

    Keep doin what ya doin… had the pleasure of watching the creative fire in you build for the last couple of years… don’t EVER quench it to appease ANYBODY… stay true to your craft, but remember that your responsibility ends upon delivery of the message… you’re not responsible for, neither can you control the response of the hearer!

    Your song continues- keep pickin em up and puttin em down- move forward!

    As long as you operate on the level that you do creatively, you are going to do one of these things or all of them:

    Provoke Thought
    Provoke Laughter
    Piss Somebody Off! LoL…

    I love you, Grashopper!

    • Sensei!!! My dear friend, Black 🙂

      Thank you for stopping over to read and comment! You were the one who told me to get “butterball naked”, right? Ha, well this is me figuratively stripping away the layers and you know what, the more I remove, the better the flow of thoughts and my ability to just deal and move on. Thank you for the great advice that I still hear in my head.

      The funny thing is, I don’t even try to control what someone hears or receives from a poem. In my opinion, a poem is something that you as the writer shares and lets go of so that whomever is reading or listening can adopt or borrow the thoughts that are needed or wanted and if you’re really lucky – they will share it with others who take and share too. It’s a cycle of thought, ways and life…

      I love the list you put up here – I think I’ll use it as my guide. If a piece meets one or several or all of the criteria, then it’s a keeper! I need more people to read your words and be inspired the same way you inspire me, Sensei 🙂 Thank you, we’ll talk soon.

      P.S. LOL @ the mutant art hater!! Made me visualize evil ole Shredder from Teenage Mutant Ninja turtles!!! 😀

      Grasshopper 🙂

  7. Enoch 7th Prophet says:

    I just had a similar thing happen to me here in dc at a Place called “ALMAZ” just my facebook status under Enoch El-Shamesh….this club owners be tripping and bugging…enough is enough. Glad you stood up..Much Raspect.

    • Peace Enoch,

      Dang, I’m sorry to hear about your experience! I’ve been to Almaz. I’ve also heard a couple things from two promoters in the area that weren’t too good. I’m sure there are other places who are more geared toward art – or rather, I hope there are because these biz owners hurting my soul, man.

      I’m glad I stuck to my guns, thanks. I figure I can’t “preach” via wholesome words and slink away quietly when wrong is being done right in front of me.
      Much Respect my friend. Thanks, I appreciate you!!

  8. Robin says:

    So that’s what happened at that venue! This business owner had no ‘rules’, but only ways she attempted to manipulate people for profit. And to pretend the ignorance came from her patrons instead of her own warped mind is utter cowardice. I’m glad you called her the idiot she truly is!

  9. ifelicious says:

    To me, the words and actions of this owner are racist and illegal. I’m no lawyer but you very well may have a case if you wanted to explore that route as well. You have every right to be mad because her rationale for boundary setting was rooted in bigotry.

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