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Philly Jawns: JAM with Nina!

Philly Jawns Book Poster

Philly Jawns: JAM with Nina! / Jazz Meets Poetry

Friday, April 30th at 6:00pm

Hosted by WRTI's J. Michael Harrison

REGISTER HERE!

 

Among the many powerful artistic voices that emerged out of the Philadelphia Jazz community, none is more heartfelt than that of Nina Simone. An aspiring young concert pianist who comes to Philadelphia to pursue her education and her dream, only to find that there was no place for a Black girl with that kind of ambition. She changed course, even her name and became a kind of superheroine named Nina Simone. Merging her piano mastery with a new found need to sing, she would beautifully and painfully, speak truth to power and inspire generations of artists.

 

Honoring the memory of Nina Simone, the Philadelphia-based, poetry collective, Philly Jawns recently published a book of poems dedicated to her work and her story. Project editors and poets, Debra Powell-Wright and Pat McLean-Smith brought together a strong and vocal group of Black women artists to take on this challenge. These women are some of the most prolfic and inventive voices on the local scene. In this book, they explore the worlds and words of Simone with a deep sense of respect, reflection and sisterhood. Continuing to promote the book and the spirit of sisterhood, they will present a special Jazz Month online event on Friday, April 30th at 6:00pm moderated by WRTI's, J. Michael Harrison. The event, which is co-sponsored by the Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts and Moonstone Arts Center will feature dialogue, poetry performances, as well as musical performances.

 

Nina Photo

 

Debra Powell-Wright serves as lead strategist of art for social justice entity, SistahWrites!. She is the founder of the multi-genre performance ensemble, For Women Collective, and a founding member of Philly’s first female spoken word ensemble, In The Company of Poets. She is a published essayist and recipient of multiple artist grants including support from the Leeway Foundation, Rauschenberg Foundation and Pollination Project. Debra Powell-Wright’s latest project is Philly Jawns: For Women Revisited, a poetry anthology featuring forty (20+20) Black and Brown women in tribute to Nina Simone.

 

Philly Jawns 1

 

PJP caught up with curator, ​Debra Powell-Wright to discuss the upcoming event and the phenomenal  enduring influence of Nina Simone.

 

PJP: Can you briefly describe your artistic direction/philosophy?

 

Debra Powell-Wright: My artistic philosophy has evolved from learning the craft of poetry to using the craft to create opportunities for others to share as well as, more recently, a self-care process for my own healing. The pandemic that has necessitated isolation from each other and witnessing the trauma perpetrated against Black and Brown bodies like Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, to name only two of too many, has provided me with time to reflect and to encourage an outlet to use words as a form of protest.


PJP: Tell us about your upcoming event and what inspired it?

 

Debra Powell-Wright: JAM With Nina! will feature nine of the forty Black and Brown women from my self-published poetry collection in tribute to Nina Simone, entitled "Philly Jawns: For Women Revisited."  This particular event is a performance in collaboration with WRTI's J. Michael Harrison. One of our poets, the multi-talented Rahnda Rize, who is a Temple University graduate and former on-air WRTI host, reached out to J. Michael and he immediately responded to the idea of jazz meets poetry.

 Philly Jawns 2


PJP: Who are the folks participating in this project with you?

 

Debra Powell-Wright: Each Philly Jawns reading is curated first based on theme and connections to the host organization, and then based on the availability of nine (my magic number) poets. "JAM With Nina" will feature Nzinga Asele El, Jaz, Sandra Turner-Barnes, Sherry Wilson-Butler, Cydney Brown (Philly Youth Poet Laureate), Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon, Aziza Kebe, Pat McLean-Smith and Rahnda Rize.


PJP: If folks want to find out more about the event on April 30th, how might they do that?

 

Debra Powell-Wright:  To find out more about Philly Jawns, visit our website: PHILLY JAWNS and to attend the free virtual performance, REGISTER HERE!


PJP: Why Jazz? When you could be doing anything else, Why this music?

 

Debra Powell-Wright:  Why Jazz is rooted in the embodiment of Nina Simone and the essence of the "Philly Jawns: For Women Revisited" anthology, about which Yolanda Wisher (Philadelphia Poet Laureate 2016-2017) wrote as the back-cover testimony, "This anthology is both playlist and prayer for Ms. Simone, our mold-breaker and future fashioner."

 

Philly Jawns 3

 

Philly Jawns: JAM with Nina! / Jazz Meets Poetry

Friday, April 30th at 6:00pm

Hosted by WRTI's J. Michael Harrison

REGISTER HERE!

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Philadelphia Jazz Project, which is a sponsored project of the CultureWorks | Greater Philadelphia, with funding provided by The Philadelphia Foundation.

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Philadelphia Jazz Project is a sponsored project of the Culture Trust | Greater Philadelphia, with funding provided by The Philadelphia Foundation.