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Quick Link to the Urban Griots Awards Voting Ballot: http://www.surveygizmo.com/s/118841/urbangriotsawardsvoting

Quick Link to the Urban Griots Awards Show at the Varsity:
– Myspace: http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendId=60157230&blogId=480280
– Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/business/dashboard/?ref=sb#/event.php?eid=64617956274&ref=mf

You may have heard the buzz about the Urban Griots Awards, or the ads on KMOJ + KFAI radio stations. An awards show celebrating the spoken word community in Minnesota and beyond, and presenting the first MN Spoken Word Hall of Fame, the Urban Griots Awards will be taking place on April 3rd at the Varsity Theater. With a packed evening of performers, and over 30 categories presented, the Awards ceremony will be a night not to miss.

To bring you this celebration, we sent over 175 nomination forms to folks in the spoken word and spoken word related communities––locally, nationally and globally––to determine the finalists in each category. The categories cover the breadth of the spoken word community in Minnesota, including some national categories. They not only celebrate artists but also events, community organizers, artist activists, producers, and creative work ranging from albums to theatre productions to radio shows to books released by spoken word artists. Plus we honor those that have laid the foundation for the community and art form today with the MN Spoken Word Hall of Fame. The project is supported by noted and respected artists in the community from Jessica Care Moore, Amiri Baraka, J. Otis Powell!, Taalam Acey, Carolyn Holbrook, David Mura, Kevin Coval, and others.

With the Urban Griots Awards we are doing something a little different, we are presenting two awards per category. There will be a Peoples Award and a Judges Award. Also we are providing samples and excerpts of work of nominated artists, and artistic work, for as many categories as we can, right in the voting ballot. We have also included, where possible, information about the artists, including highlights and special recognition, and artistic information and statements from the artists themselves, about their work or the project. This way voters can become familiar with as many of the nominated artists and work as possible, so they can make a more informed decision about each of the categories. We also hope that you will be introduced to an artist or a work that you may not be familiar with.

For the Judges Award we have sent information to over 30 judges in the spoken word and spoken word related communities. We’ve selected a wide range of judges, with knowledge and expertise in the field, from artists to organizers to promoters to press, and including noted artists from around the globe and in Minnesota.

For the Peoples Award we are coming to you, the People. We are asking you to cast your votes for the Awards, Now, so your voice can be heard. We also ask that you spread the Word, and pass on the information to your lists, networks and friends. The voting is open to anyone, anywhere. You do not have to live in Minnesota or in the U.S. The spoken word community is wide and vibrant, and we want to hear from you. This is why we have provided work samples and excerpts, and nominee information, so you can make the most informed decision as possible, regardless of where you are based.

* The only limit with the voting is that you can only vote once per IP address, this is to protect against multiple voting by a single person. We realize this may limit folks in certain situations but we feel this is the best way at this time to protect the integrity of the online voting process.

To cast your vote, you can go to this link:

If you have any questions, or would like more information, please contact us at mnswa.mail@gmail.com.

We hope that you will join us as we celebrate the Spoken Word community and art form. We thank you for your time and your support. All the best.


Urban Griots Organizing Committee
& MN Spoken Word Association

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Note: The response to the Urban Griots Awards have been great. We have included some of them below. Your kind words are greatly appreciated.

“Thank you for nominating me for such a amazing award. It is always a great honor to be recognized for ones work.”

“Wow, what an honor!! I’m deeply humbled receiving this finalist nomination, especially from MNSWA, an organization which does so much arts organizing in many communities.”

“Wow, I’m speechless! It never even occurred to me that I might be considered for this august award.”

“Thanks so much for doing this whole thing and for the nomination. What a great thing for spoken word and slam in the Twin Cities.”

“i think this is a great idea and kinda interested in learning what you all do and maybe trying to do it in chi as well somewhere down the road.”

“Thanks for all the great work you do for the community.”

“Thanks for doing this. Hopefully it can give spoken word in MN a much needed shot in the arm.”

“With an initiative like this I do see it succeeding well”

“Oh wow! How amazing! I am so honored and humbled!”

“This is is wonderful news. I am working on my responses right now!”

“I am speechless and truly honored.”


Urban Griots word awards

The MN Spoken Word Association Presents

The URBAN GRIOTS Spoken Word Awards Celebration
An 8 Year Retrospective Honoring One of the Nations Most Vibrant Communities
The Official National Poetry Month Kick-Off!
Friday, April 3, 2009

WHAT: An evening of historic recognition, noted nominees, awards, music and dance highlighting the magnitude of the celebrated Spoken Word community in the Twin Cities and beyond. Not to be missed performances by Twin Cities finest spoken word artists, bands, and DJs. The official 2009 National Poetry Month kick off, this evening is one of the most culturally diverse artistic gatherings held this year. A night to Celebrate and Remember!! Be sure to check out Twin Cities + National Spoken Word artists on your Spoken Word radio shows –– Tehuti: From the Griot to the MC (KFAI, 90.3fm/106.7fm, http://www.kfai.org, Sundays 11pm – midnight), Spoken Soul (KMOJ, 88.9fm, http://www.kmojfm.com, Saturdays, 10pm – midnight) and Write On RaDio! (KFAI, 90.3fm/106.7fm, http://www.kfai.org, Thursdays, 11am – noon).

“What you all have here is special…don’t ever forget that.” –– Amiri Baraka (2008)

“I’ve been saying for years, the Twin Cities Spoken Word Community is one of the most advanced, and innovative, in the country, and a number of artists here can stand toe to toe with many of the top artists nationwide. It just usually doesn’t get the attention it deserves.” –– e.g. bailey (MN Spoken Word Association/Tru Ruts)

Friday, April 3, 2009. Doors at 8pm. Event at 9pm. The Varsity Theater.
308 Fourth St. S.E., Minneapolis.

$3 Before 9:30pm, $5 After 9:30pm
Advance Tickets Available at http://www.varsitytheater.org

Group Reservations are being taken now for reserved seating via email at mnswa.mail@gmail.com


Master of Ceremony: Tiyo Siyolo
Music By: DJ Mixwell
Awards: Over 20 categories of awards, ranging from Spoken Word Album to New Artist of the Year to launching Minnesota’s Spoken Word Hall of Fame.

Performances By: J. Otis Powell, Truthmaze, Bao Phi, Edupoetic Enterbrainment (Frank Sentwali, Tiyo, Queen Drea), Hyder Ali, Ibe Kaba, Palabristas, Ed Bok Lee, Poetic Assassins, MPLS and St. Paul Slam Teams, Marie Chante, Guante, Chantz, Tish Jones, Lady Lit, October, Karma, Niyah Bengai and other surprise guests.

SPONSORS: KFAI Fresh Air Community Radio, KMOJ Radio

Interview opportunities, digital photos and video are available upon request.

Sha Cage, MN Spoken Word Association
(612) 288-9491 or sha.mnswa@gmail.com

MN Spoken Word Association (MNSWA) is one of the premier Spoken Word organizations in the nation with programming solely dedicated to spoken word and urban arts. It strives to empower youth and community through leadership, literacy, and spoken word! Programming includes: workshops and residencies in schools and community centers, regional/national travel, social justice work, area slams, radio shows, consulting and producing projects, youth leadership groups, and sustainable partnerships.

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Singers of Daybreak + Carl Hancock Rux: Spoken Word Comes of Age
by Lydia Howell

Through hip-hop, poetry and the many strands of oral traditions, have permeated pop culture. Minneapolis is ground zero for the first national symposium of spoken word performance, SINGERS OF DAYBREAK. The two-day conference is a whirlwind of dialogue, jams, workshops, video, and film showings, capped by an exhilarating evening of performances.

“Spoken Word is a long-practiced form, most recognized in the griot tradition of Africa, the bardic tradition of Europe and the Middle East, Tamil poets of India, and the cantos singers of South America,” says e.g. bailey, co-founder of the Minnesota Spoken Word Association, initiating the historical weekend of events. “Spoken Word today grows out of these traditions, an American prodigy: from the Harlem Renaissance and Blues singers, the Beat Generation poets of the 50s rebelling against conformity to poets of the Black Artist Movement of the 60s. The art from married Jazz in the 50s and gave birth to hip-hop, continuing to evolve in the 80s and 90s.”

bailey knows his stuff, as former co-producer of KFAI’s Write On RaDio! program and various performance groups including Arkology. SINGERS OF DAYBREAK continues his mission to create opportunities for emerging and established artists to explore and express themselves in a fully empowered way. The conference features a myriad of workshops for developing skills, taught by local artists with a body of work. SINGERS OF DAYBREAK is the outgrowth of the Spoken Word community over the last five years.

The artists leading dialogues and teaching workshops will also perform at First Avenue, Sunday August 19, at First Avenue. Truthmaze gives an Introduction to Spoken Word, with bailey; novelist Alexs Pate explores Writing and Publishing; J. Otis Powell! (who premiered his poetic-performance piece STIGMATISM at Intermedia Arts last month) explores Spoken Word and Music. Sha Cage, Minnesota Spoken Word Association co-founder, and co-creator of Mama Mosaic theatre group, teaches career development with the astounding Desdamona and Frank Sentwali.

You can get in the groove at an open-mic performance Saturday evening at 7pm at Sabathani Community Center. Closing out day-one of the event is an outdoor dusk showing of the feature film SLAM, which follows the open mic.

“We’re looking for participation from youth to long-time performers,” said Sha Cage. “This is a community-building event.” (Scholarships are available).

Leading a master class workshop and headlining the Sunday, First Avenue concert (backed by the local jazz group Moveable Feast) will be NYC luminary Carl Hancock Rux. This Bronx-born performer has toured from Paris to Africa, blowing minds along the way. His debut CD, RUX REVUE, included Rux jamming with singer-songwriter Toshi Reagon, and shatters boundaries: Delta blues meets hip-hop and the frontiers of Jazz as does his live performance.

Spin Magazine observed that Rux’s “baritone bends like a willow switch.” The NY Times called him a “secular preacher and hip-hop provocateur.” To this writer’s ears, he is an urgent whisper, an authentic shout of the unbound spirit. He expresses a tender lyricism with gritty truths. His performance is a don’t miss event. Slam champion, local poet Bao Phi, will perform pieces from his new fiery CD, FLARES. Congo transplant, Sister Mimi; dancer Leah Nelson; singer and founder of Java Noire Café, Anika, and spoken word collectives Edupoetic Enterbrainment and The Poet Tree, among others, join Rux for a spellbinding night.

For complete schedule: http://www.mnspokenword.org. 612-288-9491. Sat. Aug. 18: 10am-4pm Opening Ceremony & Panel Discussion, Workshops; 7pm Open Mic, Screening of SLAM at dusk. Sun. Aug. 19: Noon-4pm Master Class, Workshops at SABATHANI Community Center, 310 E. 38th St., Mpls. (Check website for details and prices)

Carl Hancock Rux and Twin Cities performers, Sun. Aug. 19 6pm ($10) First Avenue, Mpls.

First published in 2001 in The Twin Cities Pulse

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Press Release:
July, 27, 2001
Rachel Joyce


The art of spoken word is an ancient art form rooted in the oral tradition recognized in the griot tradition of Africa, the bardic tradition of Europe and the Middle East, the itinerant Tamil poets of India and the cantos singers of South America. Spoken word as it is practiced today is a rhythmically based performance of poetry that is steeped in influence of these traditions. Recognizing the rise of spoken word as an art form in the community in the last 10 years, the Minnesota Spoken Word Association presents the Twin Cities first symposium dedicated to the art of spoken word.This two-day dialogue, August 18 &19, will feature panel discussions, workshops, screenings of spoken word films and videos, and youth activities. The event concludes with Carl Hancock Rux headlining an evening of spoken word, music and dance in First Avenue’s Mainroom. Featuring two stages, the evening will include a performance by jazz group Moveable Feast, spoken word collectives Edupoetic Enterbrainment, The Poet Tree Collective, the Brutist, a performance by rising hip hop artist Slug (of Atmosphere) and along solo spoken word artists including J. Otis Powell!, Bao Phi, Divine Words, Doug Kearney, Sister Mimi, Toki Wright, choreographer Leah Nelson, and others. The evening will culminate with a performance by Carl Hancock Rux.

Selected by The New York Times Magazine as “One of Thirty Artists Under the Age of Thirty Most Likely to Influence Culture Over the Next Thirty Years” (New York Times-1994) and featured on the cover of The Village Voice as one of “Eight Writers on the Verge of Impacting The Literary Landscape…” (Village Voice-June 1998), poet/performer Carl Hancock Rux crosses the disciplines of poetry, music, dance and theater. Having recently published an experimental collection of poetry and prose, Pagan Operetta (Fly By Night Press), Rux has also published poetry, fiction and experimental dramas in numerous journals and anthologies internationally. Musically, Rux has performed his work in collaboration with a variety of artists, including Vernon Reid, Mark Batson, Toshi Reagon, Nona Hendryx, as well as alternative rock bands, trip-hop DJ’s, Latin orchestras, and West African drumming ensembles. Rux has also performed on world stages with The Alvin Alley American Dance Theater (with Jamaican multi-percussionist Junior Gabbu Wedderburn), The Urban Bush Women (featuring an original composition by the avante-garde jazz musician David Murray), and Movin’ Spirits Dance Theater (with Tony award nominated choreographer of “Rent”, Marlies Yearby). He has also performed his work throughout the U.S., Europe, West Africa, Indonesia and Scandinavia. Rux’s debut album, Rux Revue (Sony/550 Music), pairs the artist with some of popular-alternative music’s most inventive composers to date, including Beck/Beastie Boys producers, The Dust Brothers, Elliot Smith producers, Tom Rothrock and Rob Schnapf, newcomer Alan Elliot, and acclaimed folk rock singer/songwriter, Toshi Reagon. Rux Revue is available now.

The reputation of the Twin Cities as a rising spoken word community was recently acknowledged by the naming of Minneapolis as the location of the 2002 National Slam Competition. The community has fostered the talents of several nationally acknowledged performers including Bao Phi who has won at the Nuyorican slam competition (one of the strongest in the country) twice. He has also placed highly at the National Slam Competition two years in a row. And the local performance community is poised for international acclaim with the upcoming release of a CD featuring the spoken word of Desdamona produced by legendary Jamaican producers Sly & Robbie. Additionally, Village Blues, the spoken word film by spoken word artist e.g. bailey and filmmaker Ayesha Adu has been shown in several festival and venues including the Juneteenth Film Festival, MMAAC First Film Festival, and MNTV, a showcase of Minnesota independent films. And it received a silver award at the Worldfest Flagstaff International Film and Video Festival. A group of Minnesota spoken word artists including Mankwe Ndosi, Truthmaze, Sister Mimi, Desdamona performed Sleeping God at the first Hip Hop Theatre Festival in New York under the direction of dancer and choreographer Leah Nelson. Edupoetic Enterbrainment has performed regionally at various venues, and member Tiyo Siyolo placed in top 10 (out of 120) at the Def Jam Slam Competitions in Chicago.

The mission of MN Spoken Word Association is to foster and support the community of spoken word artists in Minnesota, and to facilitate programs and events that will further the work of the artists and advance the art of Spoken Word. MnSWA creates programs and workshops for spoken word artists, develop and facilitate grants, and promote their work. It would also serve as a center for information and networking within the spoken word community.

This activity is made possible, in part, by funds provided by Metropolitan Regional Arts Council (MRAC) from an appropriation by the Minnesota Legislature. Also funded in part by the Jerome Foundation.

Singers of the Daybreak is co-sponsored by SASE: The Write Place, Intermedia Arts, KFAI, The Loft, Flatland Gallery, Ricochet Kitchen, Rhymesayers Entertainment, First Avenue, World Beat Video, Borders Book Stores, Insight News, Radio K, Pangea World Theatre, Sgt. Preston’s, Sound Unseen/Undercinema, Ashe & Spencer, The Archie Givens Sr. Collection, The Givens Foundation, Minnesota Center for Book Arts, First Fridays, Sabathani Community Center, Pillsbury House Theatre and Backdrop Productions.

Artist biographies and a complete schedule of symposium events follows. For more complete information about Singers of Daybreak or MN Spoken Word Association, please check our website http://www.mnspokenword.org.