By Jacqueline Zegler
“Take me, free me.”
Melia Jerí opened When Love Opens the Door with an a cappella performance that begged for acceptance from a lover.
Linda Cameron shared her journey that included growing up in a segregated town long after the height of the Civil Rights Movement.
Morgan Givens recited a poem about transformation and acceptance after finding his long lost sister after 17 years.
Cathy Smith revealed her story of learning how to grow up with her brother and his unique way of showing love.
When Love Opens The Door was a storytelling and spoken word exposition at the MilkBoy ArtHouse produced by The Clarice’s Artist Partner Program, Joe’s Movement Emporium and CreativeWorks. Seven performers opened their hearts and mouths to tell the audience about love in their lives.
The night’s overarching theme was strengthened through the different interpretations of each piece. Watching the performers of various ages give the audience bits of themselves through vignettes about their life experiences was a beautiful display of bravery and fortitude.
Patrick Washington, one of the performers and “one of the area’s premier performance poets and storytellers,” according to his biography, began performing spoken word in 2003 and only began storytelling five years ago. He was approached by Amy Saidman, director of Story District, to be a poet for the group. After joining Saidman, he said he found himself inspired by the storytellers at Story District.
“There’s a whole art form to this,” Washington said. “Of course, the African tradition has always been oral storytelling. It wasn’t written. We didn’t write our stories. We had to remember them and tell them.”
He was commissioned to write a poem in 2011 for the dedication of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. It was set to music by Grammy Award-winning violinist Miri Ben-Ari.
During the Feb. 21 event, Washington told a story about growing up in the DMV, learning the ways of go-go music and learning to fit in with D.C.’s distinct culture. He later performed a spoken word poem that he said was “a shout-out to U Street.” The poem took the audience through Washington’s relationship with the historic section of D.C. and how the love affair continues to this day despite now having a family of his own.
Other student performers included Leilani Clendenin, a senior at Suitland High School who performed a moving spoken word poem about meeting God, and Leonel Solano who told a story about how his parents’ love opened the door to the U.S. for him.
Though the performers all came from different backgrounds, one thing was clear: love, in all of its forms, will always open the door.
Joe’s Movement Emporium is a nonprofit performing arts center in Prince George’s County. CreativeWorks is a program for high school seniors and recent high school graduates that readies them for the workforce in technical theatre, digital media and media production.
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Sierra Curry.
Jacqueline Zegler is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at email@example.com.