City Beat

Poets, rappers stage peaceful performance at Cesar Chavez Plaza

Paul Willis, right, performs on the stage at Cesar Chavez Plaza during The Most Open Mic in the City in Sacramento on Monday. The events  are open to all artists and performers..
Paul Willis, right, performs on the stage at Cesar Chavez Plaza during The Most Open Mic in the City in Sacramento on Monday. The events are open to all artists and performers.. bnguyen@sacbee.com

More than 40 young poets, rappers and artists performed an open-mike “flash mob” in Cesar Chavez Plaza late Monday, rejecting what they described as the violent stereotypes associated with hip-hop.

A small group of police officers watched the group from across Ninth Street, but left after an hour. The group performed for nearly two hours in the shadow of City Hall, ending the show just after 10 p.m.

Andru Defeye, whose ZFG Promotions organizes “The Most Open Mic in the City” event, said he was a little nervous when he showed up at the park to find the police officers and a television news truck nearby. But his fears quickly eased when it became clear the police would not intervene with the show.

“We kept our intentions right,” Defeye said. “We’re out here for the people, we’re out here for something positive.”

Some members of the group made reference to the Feb. 20 shooting outside the Ace of Spades music venue on R Street that left four people injured. The shooting occurred outside a show for Los Angeles rapper Nipsey Hussle and has led to tension on R Street between the owners of Ace of Spades and neighboring businesses.

“Hip-hop is not about guns and violence and drugs,” said Olivia Monahan, a co-founder of ZFG. “What hip-hop is about is our community. What hip-hop is about is pushing that positivity. What hip-hop is about is reminding you that the struggle is real.”

The members of the group rapped or performed poetry on a variety of subjects. Some talked about fleeing abusive relationships or shedding addiction. There were some references to a mistrust of police, but when one rapper started an anti-police chant, no one joined him.

Shasta Slaughter, who teaches break dancing, performed her poem called “Even Steven” about getting out of a bad relationship she described as “an addiction.”

“I love the fact that we can come out here and share what’s in our hearts in the open,” she said.

Some of the performers resembled preachers. David Loret de Mola, who teaches poetry and improv, read his poetry to the crowd as the night came to a close.

“There is a chance for love in every interaction,” he said. “And you can waste your breath repeating the same hateful conversations ... or you can stop. And be brave enough to treat your anger with love.”

Call The Bee’s Ryan Lillis, (916) 321-1085. Read his City Beat blog at www.sacbee.com/citybeat.

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