Centuries of slavery and racism have attempted to silence generations of African Americans. But their struggle and strife have not gone unheard because of spoken word.
JC Futrell, whose stage name is Panama Soweto, is a spoken-word artist. He's been in the spoken word community for more than a decade.
“Spoken word is a performance poetry," Futrell said. "It’s got its roots deep in African American culture. Some people would say that the birth of American spoken word came out of the Harlem Renaissance and really gained its footing in the 1960s.”
What has evolved into spoken word started as oral traditions.
“When slaves were brought over to America, they didn’t speak the same language, they were not taught to read and write and punished if they tried to learn to read and write, so the only way they were able to communicate after they started to learn English was through oral traditions,” Andre Carbonell said.
Andre Carbonell, AKA Hakeem Furious, has also traveled the country to share his poetry.
“I would consider myself a wordsmith and one of the pioneers of the literary performing arts movement,” Carbonell said.
He says spoken word is an opportunity for people to share what’s going on in their life and around the world, maybe offering a new perspective to help people understand.
Futrell says words can be powerful and they can inspire change. From Dr. King to people living today, spoken word is helping people of color to be heard.
Amanda Gorman became well known after sharing spoken word at President Joe Biden's inauguration.
“We the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president only to find herself reciting for one,” Gorman said at the inauguration.
Wordplay, rhythm and storytelling are inclusive of all people and cultures making it easier to understand a different point of view or the hardships in modern society.
“People don’t like talking about things that are uncomfortable," Futrell said. "But our artists make things palatable for us.”