Loved our segment on spoken word artist Tish Jones? Read on for more details not featured in the episode about how she became interested in poetry and building the community!
“I went to Maxfield Elementary School, and there was an afterschool theater project that was led by our science teacher, actually. She presented us with this play, and, you know, all of my family listens to hip-hop. My friends listen to hip-hop. I listen to hip-hop. So the play options: one was Rap Punzel— Rapunzel’s story written as this epic rap, and I was like, “I wanna get down with Rap-Punzel. This is amazing—I’ve never even seen anything like this.”
“The honest truth is that my relationship with school–it wasn’t always the best. I think it was because it wasn’t always fun and challenging to me, so I got bored easy. I think that’s the importance of the Rap-Punzel thing, right? It really drew me in to be able to read that classic story in this contemporary art form that was really relevant to me and my lived experience, but I didn’t have that often. And you know, not a lot of young people have that often. It’s not often that we’re taught in that language that we really speak.
“So what ended up happening for me is some of my teachers—I’m really thankful for this—some of my teachers kinda picked up on that. People gave me space to really explore my creative side, and I think a trusting relationship happens. If someone extends a gesture or a kindness to you, you want to give it back. So I showed up for those teachers because they showed up for me.
“In 2005—that was my graduating year of high school, and that’s when I linked up with Intermedia Arts for the first installment of B-Girl Be. B-Girl Be was an international celebration of women in hip-hop. That year was a life-changing year for me. That’s the year that I moved out of this solo kind of performance or writing space into: here’s what performance is like on a local level.
“Every year after that I still did some poetry and hip-hop sets, but also it became about helping organize it. It then shifted from being onstage to really thinkin’ about how you create platforms for other people. I think that’s what so good about this community, the Twin Cities arts community, to me. It’s not a selfish community. People here give back, and they teach.
“I feel like my involvement with B-Girl Be really felt like a mentorship. These are powerful, dynamic, intelligent women who I get to learn from, and recognize that’s it’s not just about creating art but it’s also about creating the spaces so that other people can create art. Like, you know, showing up for folks in the same way that my teachers showed up for me when I was a kid.”