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Church on the 9

Koyi Culp

 "When the revolution comes afros are gonna be trying to straighten their heads, and straightened heads are gonna be wearing afros...when the revolution comes." - The Last Poets

Poetry for me hasn't been exciting for a long while, admittedly. I haven't purchased a book of poetry since Saul Williams S÷he which came out around/bout 2000. I have always been a rap/trap/hiphop head though, so at the last minute I decided to go to Church on the 9 after seeing the event for it on FB. I went off the strength of knowing that wherever there is poetry and prose, there is usually rapping and a beat and also I NEEDED to see some triumphant behavior.  The mailbox definitely was utilized in the absence of drums and hand claps on beat were required by MCs. So I drove right on up on Church on the 9 not knowing a single face but showing up to see some fresh faces do some new things on an old broken corner. Diagonal from where we stood is a burger joint that a friend and I used to go to just about every day after school 20 years ago as Freshmen in high school. Then there's the always hated but frequently visited liquor store that won't budge on another corner, 2 beauty supply stores on two of the other corners, and a place to cash your check with some fees on the last corner. Then there was this group of folks standing on a corner talking to each other. Then, they were rapping and rhyming to each other. Then, some were reciting prose to each other. Then, the rain came heavy and everyone moved around a bit, but most, if not everyone stayed until it was over minutes later.

Call and response, beaten mailbox, singing, rapping and poetry....all CHECK and All LOVE and in a hardened place. You even had a man come by and stay for a little and say "What are yall trying to accomplish with all this yelling?"  The church organizer insisted on the mans' turn to speak.... but I couldn't hear him with the Limarita in his hand. Everyone respected his turn to speak though. And the neatly gray afroed man ended by saying some poetic words as well. True story.
Well, Church on the 9 is a real life episode of poetry, rap, and song that made me think of The Last Poets (a poetry/music group from the 60s-present) that started out performing on the corners of New York.  79th street, last Sunday was filled with part prose, part rap but all wordsmithing in the name of healing. Way to go Charles Preston for recognizing a need  and coming up with a fresh and creatively vintage way to serve up some therapy. This corner, in 2016, has been transformed into a place where you can come to creatively share your thoughts in a public space, holler and throw up your hands if needed, or complain  and recite poetry with a Limarita in toe. There was all of that last Sunday.





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