That’s me

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That’s me

ball2The one with the leaves peeking from behind the laughing bruise blossoming under my kneecap, the surprised look on my eardrum, as it pulses red in a nest of baby rabbits barely stomped by soccer cleats at the goal line, my shock scissor kicked. Giggles sewn into the seam of the ball as it sails overseas. As my name is chanted to the tune of pop songs that make their way into fists closed and raised in a half remembered cheer.

It’s my last desire, really, to have a universe full of likes and shares and wear a fuzzy fur coat like a bear as I smile on pluto with a back pass to venus. We are on the same squad, and we don’t like sitting on the sidelines too long, although the dandelions grow very nice there. But the leaves, they grow into chipped places under my fingernails so easily, where the paint was black and then blood red and sparkly glitter with smiles like diamonds.

So by game’s end, the only score is Forest 1, Dirt 0, something like the beginning of a conversation between laptops. The lines on the field circle my head and whisper corny jokes in husky voices, remind me of my frowning homework in languages that sort of sound like guitars, or maybe flamingos flying across skies littered with steaming satellites, swamps streamed through my speakers, their sound so light green, it’s maybe a buzz in my ear buds that swarms with those little flies that cloud each player in this funny league as they drift to the goalposts, crowded little suns in their own separate solar systems. They glow because the numbers on their backs and in their veins are painted in neon colours.

But actually, that’s me, too. I am a movement since I was studying happy bugs deep in the ground between roots of willow trees. I never know their names, for true, but willow seems about right, branches both shady and relaxing a droopy and nice to use as whips to sketch faint scars of the backs of siblings on long trips, but it’s all pretend and mostly for show like the egg rolls and sticky buns and sweet and sour chicken balls my brother put under his spell in a buffet. They were magic because they seemed to cost nothing, and their trees were bamboo shoots, and good things steeped in their plum sauce, and that was me, also.

Sunlight snapped its fingers as it caressed the soft steel of my trunk. We have been friends since the first grade, and that seems like about a second ago, or maybe a bunch of lifetimes. Who knows? Sunlight is so random. But, I know I need it more than air and rain, more than shin pads that blend into my leg muscles and make them ache to kick as high as I can. To laugh out loud with the vines, the grass, the chainsaws that never seem to get the jokes, even the dogs that leave messages on me and fire hydrants, their pee a social media so simple and warm.

And that’s a fact, as foul as it may sound, as foul as the whistle that forms a chorus in the key of B minor as a midfielder pulls my hamstrings from behind on a pitch black field, smelling of hot tar or diesel smoke, it wrecks my day but I am still ready for the next play, at the centre of the world but somehow still watching from zillions of kilometres away on the sidelines again, and I guess you could say, well, that’s me.

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Passa Passa the Lyin Porcupine

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Passa Passa was a porcupine that liked to talk way too much
Spread rumours, tell lies and stories, gossip and such
And though an animal with quills like weapons on his back
He could kill you with chat, rinse your ears out with chat!

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One day, his was in the middle of a big group of guys
Telling some ridiculous lies, you could see it in his eyes
The way they shifted around to see if anyone could tell
While he verbalized so nice to put the crowd under his spell
The way his spines would kind of twitch with the tall tales sublime
The way his gift of lyrics made him feel so mighty fine
Than the other much more honest and down to earth porcupines
And a porcupine’s down, below the ground, that’s where they reside

Now, happened in that crowd that there was one who wasn’t down
He was the friend of a cousin of this one dude named Spiny Brown
And Spiny was a porcupine not known to mess around
He had a real bad temper, and he was feared all over town
Spiny was full of muscles, loved to tussle, no one was meaner
He could puncture every tire of an entire eighteen-wheeler
They say he could fling quills like javelins over 100 metres
That he had claws like a cutlass is why his tunnels were so much deeper

Anyway, this guy in the crowd, it turns out he had a connection
To Spiny, and he heard something that captured his attention
In the story Passa was spinning, in his ridiculous narration
Bragging about how he was the toughest porcupine in the nation
And trash talking Spiny, running down his reputation
Burying the truth in deception and twisted information
And distortion and deception and the typical self-inflation
Of the likes of one like Passa, slick talking master of falsification

As soon as he heard the boasting, well, the guy run off to snitch
He found Spiny’s cousin and told him about this lying little b****
The two of them reached by Spiny, who was trying to scratch an itch
On his back, which for a porcupine is more or less impossible-ish
After hearing, Spiny was bellowing, looking to settle the score properly
He stomped down Passa’s tunnel, and then skewered all his property
In his mind, he imagined impaling every part of Passa’s anatomy
He was in an especially bad mood cuz he had slept kinda crappily

But Passa just kept happily talking about folks behind their backs
When it came to chat, it’s like he most definitely had the knack
What was funny for an animal with all these needles on his back
Is how he could kill you with chat, rinse your ears out with chat!

Now Spiny bristling with a viscous set of growls and grumbles
Searched out Passa and found him hiding under a pile of leaves and rubble
Started to chase him at top speed, with intent to thump and pummel
(True, top speed for porcupines is still a low gear kind of shuffle
In fact, it looks a little funny cuz they have this side-to-side waddle)
But it wasn’t funny for Passa cuz he was in some serious trouble
And as he fled, he fell into what looked like a pond or big puddle
But he plunged much deeper, disappearing into a whirl of bubbles

After sinking for what seemed like miles and almost blacking out
He was catapulted from out the water in a gigantic waterspout
Gasping for breath, he opened his eyes, but nothing looked familiar
Gone was the forest where he had grown up since he was a youngster
For once in his life, Passa was actually at a loss for words
But just in behind him, he thought he heard something stir
It was another porcupine, but it was stranger and like no other
A weird sort of mutation cuz he had no spines, just smooth all over

Passa noticed the guy had two big juicy mangos he was clutching
He told him “Hey, I’m Passa Passa,” but the guy just started munching
Passa said “Nice quills!” and then “Gimme a bite, ‘I’m kind of hungry”
The strange porcupine just kept eating, looking at Passa like he was crazy
“True, I got the barb-wire killer quills, best in the land”
Said the mind-blowing porcupine holding a mango in each hand
“What’s wrong with you, tho,” he continued, “What, did yours just all fall out?
I feel sorry for you, I’d give you a mango but as you can see I’m all out

The guy then just walked off, leaving Passa Passa standing there confusedly
He reached back to feel for his quills in the place where they were usually
He wondered if maybe it was all some weird dream or something
Hoping he would soon wake up and go have a tasty breakfast muffin
But soon he came across another one of these spineless porcupines
And another and anther, and no matter how hard Passa tried
He could understand their language but there was no getting used to it
Everything they said was not just untrue, it was exactly the opposite

But when it came to truth, Passa didn’t know too much bout that
He was too busy running his stink mouth with all kinda stupid chat
It’s funny with all these wicked little spears on his back
He could kill you with chat, rinse your ears out with chat!

Passa felt like his head would explode, he couldn’t breathe, he needed air
He started running as a fast as he could to try and escape this nightmare
He saw a sign saying “Escape Route” and ran the way it was pointing
But the sign, too, was a lie, and he ended up falling off a huge mountain
Plummeting through the clouds like extreme bungee jumping
He plunged into a canyon into a river that was flooding
He rose to the surface, good thing he took classes swimming
Crawled to the shore, and looked up only to see big Spiny grinning

Well, needless to say, Passa got a good old time butt-whooping
Then he went back to his tunnel for some good old home cooking
And when he finished eating, he had a long long dreamless sleep
And didn’t come out of his tunnel for about two or three weeks
It was hard getting back to reality after what he had been through
But he was so glad to in a place where things seemed more or less true
And though he wasn’t as popular not telling people what they want to hear
He at least stayed true to himself and that’s a truth he held dear

You see, from that day forward, Passa didn’t talk quite so much
He stayed away from spreading rumours, telling lies, gossip and such
He was an animal well protected with natural defences on his back
No need to kill you with chat, rinse your ears out with chat!

Urban Legends Featuring the nth digri

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I had the distinct pleasure of doing a feature performance at the Urban Legends spoken word series on February 6, down at Live on Elgin. It was  great experience to be back at what I have always found to be one of the City’s most creative and innovative spot for spoken word. I recall entering

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the Christmas-light circled ring of the Gladiator circle back when it was at Carleton in an after-hours classroom! The vibe is still running very strong, and Apollo and Panos are engaging hosts and tireless advocates in nurturing a space where people can come and participate in spoken word. It was great hearing a variety of styles and themes – and a range of subjects from heartfelt to humourous, thought-provoking to gut-wrenching – and especially to witness the skills of @kxshana for the night, and my bredren the Mighty God Bless, dope MC and a true lyricist, whether on a beat or a capella poetic.

Video coming soon to YouTube, courtesy of Pixie & the youth from Youth Active Media

Cascadoo 2017 Trinidad & Tobago

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Cascadoo 2017 took place in Trinidad and Tobago during Emancipation Day celebrations, and the vibes were wonderful! Roots Foundation teamed up with Northern Griots Network to support 3 poets to participate from Canada: nth digri, Dwayne Morgan, and EddyDaOriginal1. Topnotch spoken word poets from around the Globe were also part of the events, including Lamont Carey (Washington DC), Randy McLaren (Jamaica), Amal Kassir, Amir Suliman, Hodari Davis, Candace Antique (Oakland), as well as brilliant young Trinidadian poets like Shenique ‘Shamiso’ Saunders (T&T National Slam Champ), Jeremy, Isaiah Wayne John, Mikal Logie, Emmanual Villafana, Jeremy Joseph, Sharifa, and others.

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Mikal, Dwayne, Shenique, Lamont & nth digri at NAPA

The international poets were all alumni of Cascadoo festivals over the last five years, as part of a special celebration of the fifth anniversary of the festival. The events also included a component of workshops and discussions, forming the South-North Griots Summit 2.0, a follow-up to the 2015 Summit held in Toronto, Canada, and organized by the Northern Griots Network.

As part of the visit, the Canadian poets traveled with the Cascadoo performers to perform at the Emancipation Village in Queens Park Savannah, Port-of-Spain.

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nth digri & Randy McLaren

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Emancipation Day Theme: Aya = Endurance & Resourcefulness

Audiences at the Emancipation Village Roots T&T tent included children and youth from a Summer camp in Goncales, as well as the many in attendance at the Emancipation Village perusing the various arts & craft vendors and taking in the tremendously talented drummers, singers, and other performers such as the legendary Desperadoes Steel Orchestra.

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Desperadoes Steel Orchestra

On August 1, the Emancipation Day holiday, we had an opportunity to attend the Emancipation Day Parade, which featured music, moko jumbies on stilts, iron sections, and a host of cultural revellers dressed in lovely African garments.

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at the Emancipation Day Parade on Frederick Street, Port-of-Spain

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Cultural revelry!

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Moko jumbies

The poets also traveled to perform at the Youth Training Centre in Piarco, a detention facility. I enjoyed a pretty good workout playing ball with the youth, even hitting a few nice jumpers!

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The Cascadoo Crew at YTC

The schedule was fairly packed, and the group performed at workshops at the National Archives in downtown Port-of-Spain with groups of youth. Good thing we were staying close by at the SERVOL residences on Pembroke Street, as I didn’t have to walk too far in the frequently rainy weather to get there, and the Savannah was very close by, as well. I also had a chance to go by Maracas Beach a few times, which I would highly recommend to all visitors to Trinidad and Tobago. I was pretty luck, as it seemed each time I reached the beach, the weather was sunny and nice and cool with the beautiful sea breeze!

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We also performed at the Green Market in Santa Cruz, alongside the sounds of the Revelation Institute for Performing Education (RIPE) steel band. It was an amazing location in the fertile and lushly green Santa Cruz valley, with spoken word performed under banana trees and passion fruit vines, and amongst the talented arts and crafts and tasty agricultural products ( I ate one slice of yellow melon so juicy it was like a drink!). As well as performing, I also helped curate the pop-up ‘guerilla poetry,’ and act as MC. Here I am passing the mic to the insightful and entertaining ‘Kreativ Activis’ Randy McLaren, who along with US poet Lamont Carey, most impressed me with their passion and substance

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Passing the mic to Randy at the Green Market, Santa Cruz

The two feature shows took place at the Kaiso Blues Cafe – owned by the renowned musician, Carl Jacob – and at the Centrepoint Mall in Chaguanas, where Candace Antique threw down an encore of her musical piece, “Put Your Crown On.”

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Many thanks to the excellent hosts and our many friends and family who treated us so well during our stay in the twin island republic, including SERVOL, Rachel, Gregory, Sosa, Carl, David Thompson, Mtima and the whole ROOTS Foundation team, Jeanine and Vicky from the Green Market, Young Nick the photographer/MC, and last but not least, Marvin (the man with the Danger van!)

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Marvin’s sound system on wheels, the Danger Van

Soul City Music Fest

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I had the honour and great pleasure of performing at Soul City Music Fest in Laroche Park, a vital section close to the excellent Ottawa arts and cultural hub in Mechanicsville, the Origin Arts and Cultural Studio. Ali aka Captain – of Soul City Barber Shop and urban music, and culture, clothing store – was a key organizer of this tremendous event, now in its second year. It is unique in its contribution to the vitality of Ottawa urban music, with presentations of up and coming performers that thrilled audiences with some dynamic presentations of hip hop, dancehall, zouk, Afro-pop, and other types of music, as well as dance and spoken word poetry (aka yours truly, with John Akpata providing the VISUAl17E info for the people!).

Ottawa’s own Allan Andre, the National Art Battle Champ, was on hand for some amazing live painting, and booths from folks like Sankofa Bookstore, Island Flava, and the ever popular snow cone vendor magnified the vibes on this brilliantly sunny day (a rarity these days!).  I went home with a delicious bootle of pepper sauce from the producers of Ayiyiyi (nah, it’s not a creole word, it means exactly what you say when the potent pepper hits your taste buds!)

Just Jamaal handled MC duties lovely, and some of Ottawa’s finest DJs were on hand to provide the music, like Sligo and Bo Jangles, and I had a chance to lime with the likes of Papa Richie, Trevor from Ebony and Ivory, Toni from Rootz Regge Radio, and many more, and it was great to just generally meet up with my peoples.

Many congratulations to my brother Ali and his crew on a strong success in their second year, and I encourage everyone to come out and check it next year: onward and upward!!

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SoulCity Music Fest flyer

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nth digri & John Akpata

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Allan Andre

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nth digri on stage at Soul City Music Fest

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Repping NGN/VISUAL17E!

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On July 18, Toronto witnessed the power of the growing movement of African Canadian performance poetry with top-ranking wordsmiths from RISE, Reckless Arts, Watah Theatre, Northern Griots Network , Spoke N’ Heard , BEOTIS Creative, Up From The Roots and more at the Black Artist Network Dialogue (BAND) new space in Parkdale. Curated by the brilliant Motion, the performers spoke their words amidst various sections of the photo-journalism exhibit: “Ears, Eyes, Voice: Black Canadian Photojournalists 1970s – 1990s.” It was followed by a fascinating panel discussion, and some tasty barbecue courtesy of Smoke Signals.

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BLACK ARTIST NETWORK DIALOGUE (BAND)

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Motion

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Panel Discussion

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Reckless Arts Collective

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Watah Theatre

Express Yourself

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On Wednesday,  March 29, the nth digri will feature at Express Yourself at PPL, presented by Breakout Squad. Also performing, the incredible Komi Olaf! It’s at 130 George Street in the Market, starting 8:30 pm. Plus last stand of the shisha!!xpress yourself