I fell in love. Hard. And, as most people know, love hurts. But, it’s a good hurt.
A little over five years ago, I visited Los Angeles from my hometown, Baltimore, MD. My cousin, Natasha Dixon, introduced me to L.A. from Culver City to Leimert Park to Venice Beach. It was there in Venice, while watching a pod of dolphins swim into the sunset that I decided to move to Los Angeles. I was utterly and completely in love with L.A. Los Angeles turned out to be a very beautiful and seductive vampire with whom I’ve fallen hopelessly in love.
The moment I decided to move to Los Angeles, five years ago. (Photo taken by Natasha M. Dixon)
For the past five years, I’ve lived and hustled at the mercy of this passionate love affair. In pursuit of my goal of creating films, I’ve written several scripts, directed a few short films, won awards and recognition for such, and worked on many television and film sets. And as many artists here in L.A. have learned, Art is War. I battled many demons, inner and outer, on my journey. I won and lost a few battles, but throughout it all, my love for Los Angeles has grown and evolved.
Working on the set of the short film “I Want Him Dead,” written & directed by my friend Daniel J. Pico.
But, like most love affairs, ours has been tested. I got laid off from my day job, and began feeling the crushing stress of seeking a paying job in a failing economy. Indie filmmaking is creatively rewarding, but not very lucrative at the beginning stages. So, I’d been feeling overwhelmed by my circumstances and suffering a creative drain. Soon, it began feeling as if Los Angeles was sucking the life from me.
When things fall apart, it’s easy to feel worn out and disconnected. Yet, connecting with others is what I believe artists are born to do. People need people. Artists are storytellers that bring people together through expression. When we connect with others, we’re complete. We are all little pieces of the universe, shattered and scattered, and seeking to be whole by re-connecting with each other, thereby healing the universe.
Yes, we got paid to hang out on the beach all day and act like kids at the summer camp Fitness By the Sea. (Photo taken by a kid camper.)
So, during my toughest time, my soul sought out others with whom I could re-connect. It brought me full circle to a friendship that had developed during my first years in L.A. working at a summer camp on the beach. Judy Holiday (known to me by another name at the time we met.) not only worked with me at the summer camp, she also hosted an open mic poetry venue that I attended back then. Recently, she and fellow poet, Nikki Blak has hosted Brass Knuckles L.A. another poetry venue. They became the sunshine and rain for my creative energy to return to life and blossom. I began attending every week to receive my nurturing; the creative energy generated by all the poets competing for a spot on the L.A. Slam Team fed me. I judged the poetry competition along with other audience judges nearly every Monday night that led up to the finals. The team got to know me, and I got to know them.
Your 2010 Los Angeles Poetry Slam Team: Judy Holiday, Nick Macedo, Nikki Blak, Daniel Weingarten, and Mr. Poetic.
Mr. Poetic and me.
Me and Nikki Blak.
My inspiration, Ms. Judy Holiday.
Ms. Judy Holiday inspires the hell out of me. She’s electrifying. Her spirit is bold and brash, while being simultaneously vulnerable and sincere. She says things I wish I had the nerve to say, and her passion and drive is unrivaled. I wish I had an ounce of her fire. When she performs one of my favorite poems, I’m transported. I’m in the world she has created with her poem, feeling emotions and experiencing memories and feelings I forgot I had. One of my favorite poems she performs is called “Love Me Like Childhood.”
Judy Holiday on the Mic.
Nikki Blak rejuvenates my spirit with poems that reflect my own thoughts and feelings. She speaks words that breathe life into an experience that feels unique to me as a black woman. She embodies what I hope all young women strive to become. Nikki exemplifies grace, courage, and poise as a talented, beautiful black woman. Her poems paint pictures of city life, dreams, hopes, and reflections of wisdom. “White Sundress” is my favorite poem of hers. (You can watch it here at minute 3: http://youtu.be/MJbkUH11W8k )
Nikki Blak on the Mic.
Daniel Weingarten, the youngest of the crew, is a poetic phenom. His vibrant energy shines from him onstage like a warm glow. His spirit is pure and earnest. Daniel has a way of drawing you into his world with poems of love and hope, then turning around and spitting a poem reflective of life’s harshest realities. We also discovered that we were one degree of separation apart prior to the Slam competition, as he is friends with my younger cousin from his days in the world of high school debate. My favorite poem performed by Daniel is “Religion Band.”
Daniel Weingarten on the Mic.
Mr. Poetic, one of the three young men of the 2010 L.A. Slam Team, impressed me from the moment he first uttered a poem in my presence. Initially, I was a little unsure if he’d make the team because his delivery was so intense, (Audience judges can be very sensitive.) but, his talent to spit a passionate poem about the gritty world of the inner city, then, flip into an introspective poem that reveals the vulnerability of his pure, creative soul laid that to rest. He deftly counterbalances angst and passion with sensitivity and vulnerability. “A Dream” is one of my favorites that Mr. Poetic performs.
Mr. Poetic on the Mic.
Nick Macedo stole my heart when I heard him recite a poem that took me on a journey into his soul. His passion runs deep with still waters of emotion that resonates with me. His poems are unafraid, honest ventures into that dark scary part of us that’s fearful of being hurt. He has a recurring underlying theme of connecting with others that I believe artists strive to do, thereby facilitating the healing of the universe. “Splash” is one of my favorite Nick Macedo poems.
Nick Macedo on the Mic.
It was through my relationship with the L.A. Slam Team that I discovered the beautiful music of Kevin Sandbloom. A mesmerizing performer with passion and soulful songs, Kevin won me over the moment he opened his mouth and sang “Viva Los Angeles.” I first saw Kevin while attending a performance by the L.A. Slam Team at The Talking Stick in Venice, (How appropriate!) and I fell in love with his music. There is so much soul and sincerity in every song he sings, and his voice reaches into your heart and just hugs and never lets go. Little did I know, Kevin has a history with the members of the Slam Team dating back before they came together as the official 2010 L.A. Slam Team.
The Incomparable Kevin Sandbloom.
Nikki Blak performs with accompaniment from Kevin Sandbloom.
Kevin has been a star of the poetry scene, performing at many poetry venues and spoken word events. Mr. Sandbloom tells me he first met Nikki Blak years ago at such an event, and the one thing he remembers most is how young she was, yet even back then her talent was obvious. Mr. Poetic has a history of requesting Kevin’s performance of a cover of Sade’s “Is It a Crime?” at every venue where their paths crossed in the past. Over the past several years, Kevin has interacted with each member of the Slam Team, and now often performs onstage with them, marrying the magnificence of music with poetry to produce a performance that takes the audience to a beautiful place of lyrics and notes, words and chords.
Kevin Sandbloom on the Mic.
On July 4th, 2010, I saw Kevin perform at a poetry venue in Phoenix, Arizona and his reputation preceded him. Mr. Sandbloom has fans all over the country and they all love him unconditionally. At Homebase Poetry in Phoenix, he performed all of my favorites, “Viva Los Angeles,” “Blues for Bricktop,” and two covers, “A Song for You,” and “Is It a Crime?” The audience joined me in enjoying every melodic moment enthralled by his beautiful music and poetic lyrics.
My friend, Judy Holiday, reawakened my spirit, and rejuvenated my creative energy with her L.A. Slam Team. Brass Knuckles L.A. gave me the opportunity to let my heart’s wings fly again by inspiring me to share my poems through open mic, and connect with people through art. Judging the competitions and being a part of the formation of the 2010 L.A. Slam Team was an honor, and I’m blessed to know them and call them friends.
My 2010 Los Angeles Poetry Slam Team!
Music and poetry of L.A. encouraged the rebirth of my creative soul, and I thank God for making me an artist and putting such talented artists into my life. Los Angeles will forever be my home and I will never stop loving L.A. “Push it over the line. Push it one more time. Baby, that’s love. Got to get down or lay down. Put a notch in your belt and cinch it tight…Viva Los Angeles.” ~Kevin Sandbloom
Visit Brass Knuckles L.A. every Monday night at 8:30 pm in Leimert Park, 4343 Leimert Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90008. $5 open mic. Tell them Nia sent you.
Follow Brass Knuckles L.A. on Twitter to find out when and where they will be performing. www.twitter.com/BrassKnucklesLA
Sample and purchase the wonderful music of Kevin Sandbloom online and at iTunes. Visit the website to find out when and where he will be performing. www.KevinSandbloom.com