As hot coffee, strawberries, grapes and chocolate wafer cookies were being served by “Coffee After Dark” host De Lantz, people packed Germantown’s Wired Beans Café for spoken-word and live musical performances on Thursday night.
Osiris Wildfire kicked off the 88th show, which featured Grammy nominated poet Ursula Rucker, by playing an “eclectic, hip hop and folk” song played on his guitar.
High schooler as the opening act
The spotlight feature was performed by Rogelio Lopez, a sophomore at Thomas Edison High School. Lopez performed “Heart Pieces” — an original three-part spoken-word play written by his theater teacher Lindo Jones.
“The whole theme of the piece is about broken moments,” Jones explained. “And these broken moments are something we usually attach to love.
“From people passing, from the broken moments we find in love, [and] from our communities breaking apart and people not working together. It’s about how can we find ourselves with bringing these piece back together.”
Said Lopez, “Acting is something I’ve always wanted to do. This is probably one of my first times performing for a different type of crowd other than my fellow students.”
While performing “Confetti”, “Untitled” and “Dead Roses,” Lopez tied his hair back in a ponytail, put on a black blazer, sat in a chair and talked about the frustrations of school closures, civil rights and teen violence.
“Roses,” Lopez said during the performance. “Don’t give them roses when their dead. Give them roses when they’re alive.”
When asked whether “Heart Pieces” relates to his life experience, Lopez said he could connect.
“When you live in Philly, it’s not easy to see somebody and expect them to be there forever, so I would say I do connect with that,” Lopez said. “There are people I see roaming the streets and then two week later, they’re not there anymore. And then I get the bad news.”
Teacher shows support
Michelle Myers, chair of the Learning Lab at the Community College of Philadelphia and member of the Asian-American spoken word duo Yellow Rage which was featured on HBO’s Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry, was at the Chelten Plaza cafe in support of her student.
Myers, who has been performing poetry for 14 years, taught Jones at a poetry workshop. She said “Coffee After Dark” was a great way for young talent to develop their stage presence.
“For emerging artists in the Philadelphia area, a venue like this is really important for them to get practice performing,” Myers said, “and also get a sense of what it’s like to perform for different kinds of audiences because they come frequently and the audiences vary.
“A night like tonight, when Ursula Rucker is here, there’s a lot of people. It really helps to build their confidence.”
Awards, then Rucker
During a 10-minute intermission, RuNett Nia Ebo and Victoria Peurifoy were recognized for their support of the Coffee After Dark series. The two women were given framed pictures of themselves and put on the shop’s Wall of Fame.
Robert Wheeler, Wired Beans Café owner, also was recognized for opening the coffee shop to community. Wheeler was given a large coffee mug with a Wired Beans Café label since Friday was his birthday.
Then, the mic belonged to Rucker, who started her set by joking about how close she lives to Wired Beans. (She lives within walking distance.)
Guitarist Tim Motzr, who has worked with Rucker for more than 12 years, played as she delivered four poems.
Rucker said “We Be” was shared as an introduction for people who have not heard of her work.
Then, she debuted two poems from “No Stranger Here” — an album off Indian recording label Earthsync which also features Shubha Mudgal, Business Class Refugees and Rucker.
“I wanted to share the two that I never shared before because I thought it would be cool [to do] with my guitarist Tim, because I could just feel comfortable that he would provide a soundscape for that,” Rucker said.
Rucker closed the night with “What a Woman Must Do,” which expresses the difficulties women go through from motherhood, relationships, work and discovering their voice in society while combating negative situations.
“It’s one of my older pieces. It’s one of my favorites,” she said. “I mean, I just do it all the time because it’s always relevant and poignant for me as a woman, just everything that we are up against.”