Rashad thaPoet

Chuck Beard, Destiny Birdsong, Mike Hicks, and Tom Eizonas

Thank you for visiting this blog. If you are a return visitor, hello again! Welcome to another wonderful collaboration between East Side Story and The Post. Let me be the first to officially, whole-heartedly welcome you to the recap and recording of the  114th epic edition of East Side Storytellin’! Like the 113, I repeat … 113, previous shows East Side Story has put together, we all decided to take a break from our busy schedules all over town in order to sit back and relax and get everyone cultured up just right in the form of a Nashville writer reading from original prose, followed by an amazing local musician performing and talking about their original music, and then a round-up creative conversation with all featured guests of this event to talk about their individual journeys and personal ties to Nashville. Without further ado, fulfilling the entertainment portion of your day, this is the recap and recording of East Side Storytellin’ 114. Let us begin, again.

Our first featured artist of the evening was someone who was born to be an artist, by the sound of her name. She was born in Louisiana, but now calls Nashville home. She is a triple threat, with her striking words as a published poet, essayist, and editor. Her writing has appeared, or is forthcoming, in African American Review, Indiana Review, Rove, The Cambridge Companion to Transnational American Literature, The Feminist Wire, and more. She is a recipient of the Academy of American Poets Prize, and she earned both her MFA and PhD from Vanderbilt University. Needless to say, we were beyond honored to have her featured with us. After a busy Summer for us both, it was perfect timing to spotlight and showcase the tremendously talented Destiny Birdsong.

Destiny approached the microphone and the audience with a quiet confidence that was both powerful and calming in its silence. She pushed her papers together and started the day’s conversation. She acknowledged that her first poem was a process piece and that her process entailed watching Prime Time television. This instantly put my creative heart at ease because I’ve been binging some older, successful television series (such as The Sopranos, This is Us, and more) in order to study why so many people loved the writing behind those series so much and also to further examine the variety of storytelling styles compel me to create. Point being, it was a perfect start for everyone to put their guards down and listen to Destiny tell us about life via her personal art. The second piece was another television inspiration, but it went even deeper with visuals of athletics and patriotism and racism, as she analyzed what her life meant while reflecting on the Olympics. You can listen to this poem, as well as the others below, but all I can say is that it is brilliant. The lines about  exercising by reaching for ketchup followed by the sadness experienced while trying to choose a favorite between two opposing black girls racing each other made me feel as though Dave Chappelle would be a little jealous that he hadn’t written the same lines first to commentate on the same dilemma.

photo credit to Chance Chambers

But Destiny didn’t stop at the Olympic finish line. She dove deeper into politics with an original poem that included the infamous speech that Melania Trump said at the RNC … wait, check that … the same speech that Michelle Obama gave a few years back at the DNC. Either way you heard it, it was fascinating to think about the idea of how different meanings come from two people saying the exact same thing. Then Destiny took us on a trip with her poem that was featured on a poem of the week deal. To say that it was moving and gave me chills to the bone while she discussed the Charleston 9 racist/terrorist monstrosity would be the understatement of the year. But Destiny saved a personal tale for her big finale. She recalled a poem that was inspired by her great-grandmother, a woman who wrote many touching church sermons on the one side of her life and also ended up killing her husband on the other. Again, you really need to listen to the poem in the link below to understand where I’m coming from here. But, that being said, I am forever grateful for Destiny taking the time to start the conversation that was had on September 5, 2017. If I could listen to her read every day, I would certainly continue to become a more thoughtful and better version of myself with every poem.

And then we were gifted with music. Our featured music of the night was someone who I believe is the future of Nashville’s musical soul. I first saw him at a very special show alongside East Side Storytellin’ alumnus Alicia Michilli, as they both completely floored me and my wife while they played with Keb’ Mo’ at the Fontanel (as part of a residency like none other). He was also part of the Based On anthology we put together over two years ago, his contribution was titled Uruhu (inspired by poetry/fiction by Rashad thaPoet and Shawn Whitsell). Originally from Warner Robins, Georgia, this artist studied business and marketing at Middle Tennessee State University (Go Blue Raiders!) before moving completely to Nashville and making magic happen with his music. He has toured with the likes of Keb’ Mo’ and Jonny Lang, among others, but we were more than happy to share this day with this man, as he played his original work that floored everyone in the building and outside the windows passing by. And when I say we were happy to share this day with this guy, this was the only date available for the rest of the year (and I’ve been trying to schedule him for over 2 years). I’m talking about one of the busiest and most talented musician I know in show business today … the one, the only, the humble, the man … Mike Hicks.

Mike sat down at his office, behind the self-proclaimed “most expensive shield” he could find to go to battle with his artillery of melodies and love, tickled the ivories, shook off the dust of the day, and immediately made a near full house light up with smiles from the first note he struck. If you’ve ever seen or heard Mike perform, then you already know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, I’ll try to explain (before you just listen to the extended recording below). Mike is not only a musical and creative breathe of fresh air, he is also the first breathe of air you get after being submerged in the deep end of the pool by the man while the lifeguards ignore the dire situation laid out right in front of them. His music and message is currently life itself. Once you taste it, you can’t go back to what you were eating before, and you certainly can’t un-hear the stories and lessons interwoven into the emotional songs he sings. Simply put, his music is a force of life and can easily be used to take the conversation and insight that Destiny dropped on us to the next level of action in the streets (or social media, if you need to start there).

Mike prefaced each song with a little gem of knowledge and backstory of where he and the song came from. He grew up in the church, and he effortlessly combines the good parts of his childhood lessons with the trials and tribulations, adversity and accomplishments, that he faces on a day-to-day schedule in the current worldwide popular music scene. He sings about injustice with race, financial systems and institutions, and historical figures who more people need to know about and who should never be forgotten, and then he beautifully ties all of that into words that you can relate to without even trying.

photo credit to Chance ChambersMike ended his set with two songs that will not soon be forgotten by anyone in the crowd. Both were about two separate people who have continuously inspired Mike while on his personal journey. The first was about a woman named Miss Josie, and the second was about a local man by the name of Mister Bobby. I told Mike I would spread the message (beyond just sharing the recording below), so here it goes. Mister Bobby is an older black man around the age of 70 who you may hear singing at any time of the night if you are walking around the East Nashville street of Shelby Avenue at any given spot from the park to Downtown. Mike hasn’t seen him in years. But, if you see a man who fits the description, please ask the man if his name is Mister Bobby. And, if it is Mister Bobby, please tell him to call his friend Mike Hicks. Thank you for sharing the good word and paying it forward.

After the music faded, I was blessed with the opportunity to converse with Mike and Destiny. Typically these conversations last around an average of 20 minutes. I knew this was going to be longer because of the depth and heart that these two artists give on a daily basis and also because it was a chance for so many white patrons in the crowd and beyond the recording to listen to two black artists who articulate the current cultural, political, and social questions and struggles our country and world is dealing with every single second of every single day. Again, I will do their answers and the conversation injustice if I don’t just let the recording do the talking for this recap. I will end my comments here, unless you reach out directly via the website or email. This recap has ended, but the conversation sparked and lit even brighter due to the efforts of Destiny Birdsong and Mike Hicks on this given show will continue to grow like wildfire … until we get this thing on the right track for everyone involved. And by everyone involved, I mean we’re all in this thing together. I’ll just leave it at that for now.

So here is the edited version of East Side Storytellin’ 114, the show when Destiny Birdsong and Mike Hicks spoke, sang, preached, taught, and threw light (the opposite of shade) needed in our worlds more than ever. It was recorded at The Post East on Tuesday, September 5, 2017. I am so thankful these two people took time out of their busy lives to share their talents with us. Once again, serendipity struck with the absolute perfect pairing and timing for this series. I am forever grateful.

You can read more of Destiny’s writing here –

http://destinybirdsong.com

You can listen to more of Mike’s music here –

https://www.youtube.com/user/MHicksMusic

You can listen to this show, edited, soon, alongside the previous shows too, on our website,www.eastsidestorytn.com, at our In Our Own WordsTab – see here – www.eastsidestorytn.com/in-our-own-words

I’ll keep the gratitude going for Tom Eizonas, my lovely wife and most talented artist in Emily Harper Beard (efharper), and everyone that came out live to support the show … and to everyone who has helped continue to spread the word and support the show online afterwards.

Last, but certainly not least, I’d like to give one last shout out to Tonya and Chris for making The Post so welcoming and positively life-changing for the East Nashville community at large.

Our next show will be

East Side Storytellin’ 115

Tuesday, September 19th

at The Post (1701 Fatherland Street) at 7pm

reading- Aaron Joel Lain

singing- Joe Nolan

That said, that’s all for East Side Storytellin’ 114 and another fabulous event at The Post with East Side Story at the helm. Thanks for coming out and sharing the good word and giving some love to all of these great Nashville artists and our creative ideas. Please remember to be nice to one another out there.

Much love,

mE

photo credit to Chance Chambers

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Tom Eizonas, Rashad Rayford, Eric Dozier, and Chuck Beard

Tom Eizonas, Rashad Rayford, Eric Dozier, and Chuck Beard – Attendee and Nashville artist Dana Malone commented, “It really was a night about three fathers and their children.”

If East Side Storytellin’ 74 is ANY indication of the kind of year that 2016 will bring us all then we need to just give thanks to the cosmos and get ready for one of the best years anyone has ever experienced.

Thank YOU, thank YOU, thank YOU. Hello Again! Welcome to another wonderful collaboration and beginning of our greatest year yet in 2016 between East Side Story and The Post. Let me be the first to officially, whole-heartedly welcome you to the 74th epic edition of East Side Storytellin’! Like the 73 previous shows East Side Story has put together, we all decided to take a break from our busy schedules all over town in order to sit back and relax and get everyone cultured up just right in the form of a Nashville writer reading from original prose, followed by an amazing local musician performing and talking about their original music, and then a round-up creative conversation with all featured guests of this event to talk about their individual journeys and personal ties to Nashville. Without further ado, fulfilling the entertainment portion of your day, this is recap and recording of East Side Storytellin’ 74. Let us begin, again.

The first featured guest of the night is someone who never fails at inspiring every single person he meets and greets with his powerful words and heart (no pressure for tonight). He is an activist, actor, and an award-winning Spoken Word Artist who calls Nashville home. A natural born trailblazer, he was one of the first spoken word artists to release an all spoken word mixtape in 2005 with the album “Witness to the Truth” and in November of that same year releasing “Vol. 2 the Love Session” before finishing up that series with “Vol. 3 the Trilogy” in the summer of 2006. In 2008, he went on the “Talk to the People Summer Tour” while hitting over 30 cities and solidifying his place as one of the front runners in the Spoken Word game. The numbers prove it too. He’s sold over 20,000 albums independently and has released well over 10 hip-hop cd’s to his credit and counting. In April 2013, he brought down the house at the TEDxNashville event, of which you can experience online. He was also notably one of the first hip-hop artists to be featured at Nashville’s own Musician’s Corner as well. One of the major pieces of the outstanding non-profit Southern Word (and contributor of one of the coolest stories found in the Based On anthology that East Side Story put together and published this past year with proceeds going to the Arts & Business Council of Greater Nashville – you can purchase your copy of that project at East Side Story later), here’s to someone who I fully believe will go down as the most influential writer in Nashville. I’m talking about Rashad Rayford, aka Rashad thaPoet.

Rashad arrived to The Post about 15 minutes until show time and he promptly went to a corner and pulled out a notebook and a pen. After catching up with his day and making sure he was okay with the show template, I left him to his devices. By the time I introduced him to the absolutely jam-packed room filled with all shapes, sizes, ages, and races, Rashad was as ready as ever to help create another unforgettable evening for all in attendance. He opened up by explaining the differences between poetry and spoken word. He clarified that poetry is from the page and spoken word is about the performance. He excited the crowd by revealing he was about to do a little bit of both.

Rashad broke out the notebook he had dove into in the corner and said that he was about to share two pieces of poetry that he wrote minutes prior to taking the stage. It’s just how he rolls and writes. You can listen to every single thing shared during this monumental evening in the recording below, but I’ll briefly describe a little of everything just in case you are thinking of skipping the recording (which would be so foolish of you to do). The first piece Rashad shared was an insightful social work inspired by a family tragedy back in the 1930’s involving children playing, children missing, and the Klan. As with anything Rashad shares, it was powerful, poignant, and moving to your core. The second poem was no different, asking the people to think about what they would shed blood for, combining current events and people and places and topics that have flooded our news feeds for weeks, months, and recent years. Both were breathtaking.

photo credit Chance Chambers

photo credit Chance Chambers

Rashad then went into his spoken word bag. I’m not sure if I can give any of his work more justice than you simply listening to it all below. I will say that the following line was the most awesome line I’ve ever heard spoken at any spoken word event: “$1 for a burger, $85 for a pill, $5 for a salad that can give you all you need to heal.” I’m serious, y’all, it doesn’t get much better than Rashad doing what he was born to do. He asked the crowd if they wanted him to do a curated piece or an improv piece … he opted to do both AND bring Eric Dozier up on stage to add instrumentals to his words. What happened next was like jazz, dooooo dooooooooo do dooo dooooo. He literally took words and turned garbage into a slapstick version of his vision of personal liberty. Do yourself a favor and listen the recordings below.

With the brilliant transition of getting Eric on stage alongside Rashad at the same time, the music was primed for takeoff.

The featured musician of the night is another major influential artist who Nashville is beyond lucky to have at the moment. He embodies soul, gospel, and the blues while connecting us all to the past while bridging history with the history he is making on the daily. He is a gospel music educator, cultural activist, musician, and father. He is the former Musical Director for the world famous Harlem Gospel Choir and co-founder and Director of Arts and Education for One Human Family Music Workshops, Inc (we’ll talk more about this and everything after the performance). A graduate of Duke University with a B.A. in Public Policy Studies and a Master’s in Theological Studies at Duke Divinity School (which I’ve heard is the best Divinity School in the world), he has been committed through his workshops and programs and performances to investigate the global spread of gospel music and its effect on cultures outside of the African American community. He has recently launched the Young People’s Freedom Song Initiative, a community of supported grassroots music education movement. Host and founder of the Mobile Soul Café, of which he began at The Post this past summer alongside Rashad, the entire room of family and friends and new fans gave a soulful applause and their full attention to the likes of the one and only Eric Dozier.

Eric kicked off his set by playing a tribute to his grandmother about holding on for hope and life in general. I knew from the very first note that Eric was taking us to church and we would feel his grace. He had lyrical and melodic inspiration from Sam Cook and Otis Redding, but I also heard a heavy tinge of the man Bill Withers and “Grandma’s Hands” throughout his performance. Yes sir, Eric is that deep and that good at what he was born to do too.

Photo credit Chance Chambers

Photo credit Chance Chambers

Eric took time in between songs to set up the stories behind the songs and give respect to the people he wanted to pay tribute to via the songs on this given night. He didn’t take long, the second song to be specific, to shed light on recent family facts and announce that I’m now a dad too. Eric prefaced the second track by giving a short description of why he and another person he admires loves African American hymns so much – because they refuse to devalue emotion or simplify reality. That said, Eric dedicated his original song about life being found in the simple things to me and the rest of the new and old moms and dads in the crowd. I recorded the entire song on my phone for keepsake, but you can hear the dedication and wonderful tune alongside the others below.

Eric didn’t just stick with the insightful and positive side of things in his music. He dove deep into the other side on the track about the other side of life that involves the grit and heart of life adversity. He also performed a song titled “Today” and explained how today is so important because it’s today and we’re all here together right now. I couldn’t have said or sung or played the keys any better if I tried for years. All that said, just when you thought he couldn’t get any better, Eric played his big finale with the first train song that he co-wrote with a close friend. I’m here to say that it is without a doubt the best train song played in Nashville since Johnny Cash. Don’t believe me? When was the last time you saw a train song being played live in Nashville and random children who have no relation to the performer drop what they are doing and head up to the front row to dance and clap along with the song? That’s right. It doesn’t happen … ever. But it did with Eric.

Photo credit Dana Malone

Photo credit Dana Malone

Now, because both Rashad and Eric were phenomenal at sharing the stories behind their songs and their art in general throughout their performances, it was easy for me to bypass the regular interview questions and throw out a few that were pulling at my heart while I took in the show from the crowd. I asked and they told me their thoughts about why they do what they do for the community and world-at-large and how Nashville is such an important place for each of them to do everything they want to do going forward. They also had brilliant and heartfelt responses to my question about how fatherhood and parenthood has affected their creativity and drive to make art. Coming from two fathers and artists who I admire more than any others in town, I was all ears and eyes and heart during their answers. Again, do yourself a favor and listen to the entire show below. I told Tom not to edit much of anything and keep the show as long as it ran live because it was that special of an evening and event for everyone who experienced it.

Photo credit Chance Chambers

Photo credit Chance Chambers

I don’t think you’ll find another event as extraordinary as the combination of these two modern geniuses in the same room and sharing their missions anywhere in Nashville or beyond in the next year. I’m just saying, these guys are the best and we are all better people for being around them. As my uncle Matt said after the show and I agree, I want to be like Rashad and Eric when I grow up.

I can’t say enough great things about these two humans. They took time to mention their respect and admiration for East Side Storytellin’ and our 74 shows and counting accomplishment similar to the way many musicians and artists pay homage to The Ryman Auditorium when they perform there. I’m forever grateful that I’ve met Eric and Rashad and can continue to be inspired by what they do and who they are. Before you make plans to check them out live in the near future, go ahead and listen to the recording of East Side Storytellin’ 74. Here is the link for said show that featured Rashad Rayford and Eric Dozier at The Post on Tuesday, January 5th, 2016, and kicked off the amazing year of 2016 the best way possible. Enjoy and share this experience, over and over:

Before I say goodbye for this round of fun, I’d like to give a big round of thanks for Rashad and Eric for sharing their stories, talents, and time with us.

You can read more about Rashad’s writing here- www.rashadthapoet.com

Here is Rashad’s TEDxNashville performance -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Td9SBHm46KE

You can listen to more of Eric’s music here- www.ericdozier.com
Here is Eric’s TEDxPeachtree performance-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6g_7yT4ILCk
You can listen to this show, edited, soon, alongside the previous shows too, on our website,www.eastsidestorytn.com, at our In Our Own WordsTab – see here – www.eastsidestorytn.com/in-our-own-words

I’ll keep the gratitude going for Tom Eizonas, my lovely wife and most talented artist in Emily Harper Beard (efharper), and everyone that came out live to support the show … and to everyone who has helped continue to spread the word and support the show online afterwards.

I’d also like to show much love to Clay Brunton for the beautiful artwork online to promote the show.

Art print by Clay Brunton

Art print by Clay Brunton

Last, but certainly not least, I’d like to give one last shout out to Tonya and Chris for making The Post so welcoming and positively life-changing for the East Nashville community at large.

The NEXT East Side Storytellin’ event will be …

East Side Storytellin’ 75

Tuesday, January 19th

at The Post (1701 Fatherland Street) at 7pm

reading- Kendra DeColo (www.kendradecolo.tumblr.com)

singing- Lauren Shera (www.laurenshera.com)
That said- that’s all for East Side Storytellin’ 74 and the start of the best year ever in 2016 until the next and another fabulous event at The Post with East Side Story at the helm. Thanks for coming out and sharing the good word and giving some love to all of these great Nashville artists and our creative ideas. Please remember to be nice to one another out there.
much love,

mE
ps- this show was dedicated to two people who couldn’t be there physically because of dinner time at home in that of Emily Frances Harper Beard and Avett Otis Beard!

When the shows are over, family is all we have.

When the shows are over, family is all we have. Courtesy of the Baker Boys and the Beards. Photo credit Taylor Griffin.

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