Last night, a very cold and windy night in Seattle, Kingdom Productions brought a fantastic show to us featuring 5 amazing poets Ezekiel Azonwu, Janette…Ikz, Preston Perry, Jackie Hill Perry and special guest poet Chris Webb. I arrived at Doxa Church in Bellevue and was prepared for spoken word poetry but was unprepared for the enlightening word that these poets poured over the stage. I left feeling inspired and revived by, not only the poetry, but also the praise and worship led by Janette on acoustic guitar, a grand finale I wasn’t expecting.
When you imagine a spoken word event, you may think of poets following each other one-by-one on stage, entering to say their piece and then exiting but this event coupled each piece with media production and oration. A set of circumstances that set the mood for each speaker, taking us out of the ‘pews’ of the church into the setting of the piece, the mind of the speaker whose innately topic spoke to our own individual struggle. Chris Webb opened the event with ‘Autumn’ which metaphorically compared the season to those deadly forces which hijack the minds of unbelievers, setting its sights on the church ready to overtake those who call themselves saved. This poem set the mood for the event, “Poets in Autumn”, although it wasn’t actually Autumn, I now understood the metaphor. These poets came to shine that sunlight and pour water from their mouths onto us for our own revival, to break us out of any season of death we may be facing. Each poet had a story to tell, a testimony in the form of spoken word.
Jackie commanded the stage with her piece, A Woman of God, where she defined womanhood as a product of God’s image and likeness. Womanhood being unique to manhood and femininity being unique to masculinity but both a product made in the likeness of our creator. A woman is not just a ‘emotional’ version of a man, nor is a man a being devoid of emotions. Both of these worldly definitions draw us away from the way God imagines His men and women to be as believers. Her poem revealed how when we carve ourselves after the world’s definitions of womanhood we are only stepping into ‘acts’ or ‘roles’ that fall short of God’s will for a woman, which is much greater than any form of femininity that’s a product of this world. She spoke to those who struggle with gender identity, knowing that God doesn’t make mistakes and that the body He’s placed us in is the one we need to embody to fulfill His plan for our lives.
Just as Jackie spoke to womanhood, and the struggle of identifying as a woman of God in a world that represents womanhood in a different ways, Jannette spoke to the struggle of being a single (Black) woman in a world that represents singleness in a negative, undesirable way. She urged us to never settle speaking from the perspective of a woman who saved her first kiss with her husband for her wedding day, Jannette is a walking embodiment of why we should wait for God’s choice of a husband for our lives. She explained her purpose in waiting on getting married, knowing that she wanted to enter a partnership where the both of their lives would glorify God on a scale that they wouldn’t be able to reach alone. This is the type of union God blesses, one that works for his glory. Her second piece, ‘Turbulence’, metaphorically illustrated how entering into a union outside of God’s will opens the door for disaster in our lives, like entering a plane with an unprepared pilot. When our lives fall short of God’s will due to trial and error it’s imperative that we don’t go down a spiral and we get up, knowing that God’s arm can stretch down to reach us from the depths of any pit. This concept was also illustrated in Preston’s piece, ‘Anonymous’ which focused on a girl trapped inside the routine of church with no actual relationship to her creator. The story of the girl, a preachers daughter, abused by her father and ignored by her mother, forced to lead the choir and save all those lost souls in the pews while her own soul buries itself deeper into a hole of anger, hurt and depression.
Ezekiel, dressed in all white with torn sleeves and angelic wings that stretched out a yard in both directions, represented Satan, the fallen angel whose goal is take anyone with him to the fiery pit that he can. His all white attire is in contrast with most Western images of Satan which dress the devil in either Black or Red. The contrast reminded us that Satan was once an angel in heaven, fallen due to his disobedience. The attire also reminds us that the devil is slick, he doesn’t come in the way that we would predict because he’s an attacker. The devil works through that trap music we like, the people we think are our friends and those concerts we go to where we unknowingly praise performers as our gods and idols. He comes to us as a wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing, and even non-metaphorically in Africa Satan is not represented as dark, he is an all-white blue-eyed creature. Regardless, this all-white representation of Satan was powerful in a way that confused and enlightened audience members all at once.
The four poets: Jackie, Jannette, Ezekiel, and Preston came together for a spoken word skit, an illustration of Judgement day where the defense lawyer, Jannette, and prosecution lawyer, Jackie, debated over the faith of the believer, Preston, before the judge, Ezekiel. Was he a sinner or a saint? They referenced many different aspects of his life where he’d sinned condemning the way he dressed, his living with his girlfriend and even the music he enjoyed listening to. Both lawyers however we incorrect in judging the believer, condemning sin nor relying on grace while sinning is an accurate representation of God’s intention on judgment day. The judge took off his robe and placed it over Preston to unlock his cuffs, Jesus died for the sinner, knowing we would sin and there is nothing we can do to turn Him away from us.
Each of the poets; young, Black and powerful men and women of God; were an incredible blessing to my life. The sanctuary was filled with beautiful Black and Brown bodies who I’m sure felt the same, each of us brought together not only to witness poetry, but also to congregate as a community and to lift each other up. Audience members hugged, laughed, cried, fell on their knees, shared compliments and worshiped together, this was our ‘church’ tonight. The event proves how God works in mysterious ways with it being scheduled the night before I’m to be baptized. I left feeling overwhelmingly prepared for my baptism in the morning. I’ve never been baptized, although my mother made sure to take me to church I was never ‘dedicated’ or christened. Now at 22, I find myself in a place where I’m ready to dedicate myself to fulfilling God’s plan for my life and today I’m excited be demonstrating that to the world. Thank you Kingdom Productions for bringing Poet’s in Autumn to Seattle, against the advice and prediction of statistics that said Seattle woudln’t be a good stop on the tour. The event was packed demonstrating how God’s plan is not subject to the numbers, which is why I bought some merch, a hoodie-like T-shirt that spoke to me, “Dream Big, Work Hard, Be Blessed”. Please add us to the regular tour because Seattle looks forward to seeing you again next year.
Below is a trailer from the tour, I urge everyone to support the show, it’s fantastic and you will not leave disappointed. If your city is on the tour, get your ticket’s here.