Friday, November 30, 2012

Kai Davis: Spoken Word Poet

As I've mentioned in my first blog post, I love spoken word/slam poetry. Poetry in itself is a beautiful art form, and spoken word performance takes poetry to another outer-worldly level. Just like a scene in a film, the life captured in a painting, a monologue within a play, a verse in a song, seeing and hearing a spoken word artist perform can bring about chills down my body; I can easily be moved to tears within 30 seconds of a performance. Kai Davis, an 18-year-old slam poet from Philidelphia, captivates me with her poetry everytime and tackles a wide range of issues such as racismhomophobia and sexism.

As a young poet she brings all the -isms which affect her (racism, sexism, classism, etc) into her poetry. It is through her performances that she is able to use her personal experiences to comment on the white, patriarchal, hetero-normative society we live in. Kai Davis, and slam poets in general, use words and the performance of these words to literally sucker punch the audience. 

aka Dear Dirty Hipster

Favorite line: "Acting like you're down because you say 'Fuck the system' but in the same breath I caught you gentrifiying the hell out of my hood." AND "They're quick to suck a culture appreciated appropriated Act like its a gesture of love and solidarity when really you just turned it into organic, alternative, indie vomit."

This is a recent performance in which Kai Davis and Safiya Washington deliver a "fearless indictment of hipster cultural appropriation and all its collateral damage."  What I love about this its a spin on dissing the "dirty hipster". The "dirty hipster" is commonly associated with people who are white, privileged and interested in "niche" or marginalized cultures. Rather than attack their dirty flannel and ray ban glasses, Kai and Safiya address how problematic hipster cultural appropriation has become. In a sense through this cultural appropriation, these girls comment on the fact that hipsters not only fail to understand the culture but also erase race, discrimination, oppression to make them feel more comfortable and superior.

Favorite line: A queen loses her crown when she loses her virginity.
And a queen becomes a bitch when she likes it.

This poem addresses the objectification and sexualization of women we've spoken about in class throughout the semester. She addresses how we've taken the "crowns" from females in society and in doing so reduced them to sexual objects devoid a voice. She uses colloquials, slang terms that many young people use, such as "hoes, bitches, bimbos, bad bitches, hit-it-from-the-back" and turns it around to show how messed up it is to use this type of language to describe females. The idea of taking women's crowns, is to shame them from their sexual freedom, which Kai closes with. Because "sexual freedom isn’t acceptable for women, due to the misogyny massaged into men’s brains" our patriarchal society has normalized slut-shaming and Kai is not afraid to shout that she sees that.

"Fuck I Look Like"

Favorite line: "apparently Maya Angelou is inferior due to her grammatical errors, but white man Mark Twain can write a whole novel in nothing but grammatical errors and that shit is a literary masterpiece. Well I can’t help but to pardon my people’s slang because real niggas ain’t real niggas if they don’t got a twang I won’t apologize."

In "Fuck I Look Like" Kai exposes the racism associated with intellect and education. We don't realize how microaggressions such as aligning "smartness" with "whiteness" is just as racist as assuming black people don't deserve to learn how to read because their inferior. She yet again exposes how fucked up our society is, using her experiences channeled through poetry. it adds to the dialogue as to why white intellectuals are seen as the cream of the crop in academia, while people of color intellectuals are positioned below the default white group. She brings up another issue of "whitening one's voice" as a way to speak more like the "white man" to distance him/herself from their minority race; such as degrading African American "ghetto" language as an inferior mode of communication. 

I feel like Kai Davis is the slam poet version of bell hooks. She is able to manipulate words to make talking about sexism and racism in a way that is not exclusive or solely for theoretical, academics. She smashes the barriers between age and cultural criticism, proving that teenagers know how fucked up our society is and can see the white-supremacist-capitalist-patriarchy.

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