Tribe brings poetic vibe to Tampa

Can art help someone become a better person? That will be one of the underlying themes of tonight’s performance by the Tampa based spoken-word and instrumentalist collective Irritable Tribe of Poets.

The performance, at the University Area Center Complex, fuses poetry, jazz, rock, funk, world music and film to present poetry in a context accessible to contemporary America. The event, organized by the University Area Community Civic Association, Inc. and the Prodigy Program, forms part of Hillsborough County’s Black History Month Celebration.

Tribe poet James Tokley Sr., author of the Pulitzer short-listed Genesis: the history of the African on the face of the Earth, said it should be an evening of spontaneity that is both authentic and original and captures the reality of modern day America for blacks.

“People attending should expect music, poetry with musical accompaniment, David with his lyre – lyrical poetry as it was meant to be,” Tokley said. “The work being presented will cover love, pain, happiness, insanity, African culture, rock ‘n roll, reality think – wherever poetry goes, wherever music flows, that’s probably where we’re gonna go.”

The Irritable Tribe of Poets, who take their name from a quote attributed to Plato, present their mixture of music and verse, inviting the public not only listen, but to dance in the aisles. The lineup also includes Sybil Johnson, Bradley Morewood, Farell X and Kwabena Dinizulu. Musicians include Myron Jackson of the Kuumba Dancers and Drummers, percussionist and raconteur James Beckwith, bassist Philip Booth, trumpeter Jonathan Powell and guitarist Vincent Sims.

Tokley said interest in the event reflects what he perceives as a reawakening in the American public’s interest in poetry.

“Poetry offers people the opportunity to plug into the artistic experience, something that all children from nine to 79 can enjoy,” Tokley said. “What is interesting is that here in Tampa and in America generally, there is a resurgence of interest in literature and poetry. It is a joy to be part of this renaissance.”

For joint organizers, tonight’s performance represents another step forward in their social program to give young people in Hillsborough County access to art and music. Sponsored by the Department of Juvenile Justice, the program runs in conjunction with the many art, literature, poetry, music and dance classes offered to 7- to 17- year-olds by the University Area Community Civic Association Inc. USF students tutor some of these classes.

Tonight’s performance will give several participants of the program their first taste of performing to an audience. Prodigy Program coordinator David Audet hopes that exposure to arts can help reform young people who have previously been in trouble with the law.

“This program is like an experiment to see if art can help someone to become a better person,” Audet said.

Tokley said he is optimistic that this performance will act as a springboard for people to find their own voice.

“People should come to see people like themselves, on the stage, doing what they do. It acts like an atomic itch, gets people thinking if those people can do this then I can do something. I want us to infect people’s poetic sense,” Tokley said.

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