Camden’s IDEA Center celebrates National Poetry Month by honoring late poets

Anthony Mohamed performs at Camden's IDEA Center

Anthony Mohamed, a well-known poet in Camden, performed at the IDEA Center for the Art's "Jazz on Market" event on April 3, 2022. (Tennyson Donyéa/WHYY)

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Over the weekend, the Camden arts community celebrated National Poetry Month by remembering local artists who died within the last six months, including an arts matriarch who succumbed to the coronavirus, organizers said.

The IDEA Center for the Arts, a nonprofit with nearly 30 years of service in the city, hosted its monthly “Jazz On Market” show, featuring poets, visual artists and musicians from Camden and the surrounding area.

“Jazz On Market” is an intimate affair with a cafe-like feel, and April’s edition was one of the center’s first in-person events at its new home at 219 Market Street, since opening its doors at the onset of the pandemic.

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“The performance of these artists is really about connecting to the creative spirit, connecting to the community,” said Cynthia Primas, president and founder of the IDEA Center, which stands for “institute for the development of education in the arts.”

“To me, artists are the warriors to really bring about a much more nurturing and peaceful world. So this center is a place where artists can just kind of do their magic,” Primas said.

Primas paid tribute to the late Sandra Turner-Barnes and Lamont Dixon, both of whom were revered in the arts community.

Dixon was a poet whose demeanor and subject matter often reminded Primas of legendary writer and performer, Gil Scott Heron.

Turner-Barnes was a well-known poet, arts administrator, and a member of the Camden County Cultural and Heritage Commission, Primas said.

“She became a mentor to me. And we always would talk about the work that we were doing. We would just laugh and say, ‘culture has a home and Camden,’ because we would give artists a platform.”

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On Sunday’s stage, poets of all ages spoke from the heart, about personal conflicts and society at large.

Veteran poet Anthony Mohamed used his set to call attention to violence in the community, challenging the audience to engage in dialogue that can bring about positive change.

The program was also open to first-time poets who were embraced with open arms by the larger poetry community.

On a regular day at the IDEA Center, you’ll find training programs designed to engage local youth, with courses in various subjects including video production, music production, writing and more.

It also features art programming throughout the month.

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