DaVerse Lounge

Kick, Push: DaVerse Lounge Connects Poet, Artist

By Mario Tarradell, Public Relations & Marketing Manager

The power of DaVerse Lounge: It’s Friday night, November 20, at Life in Deep Ellum. The second show of the 11th DaVerse season is freshly underway when Johnny Banks, a 10th grade student at Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy in Oak Cliff, walks up to the microphone to read his poem.

Banks’ piece, the second one of the night, frequently mentions the catchy refrain “Kick, Push.” Turns out that Banks had a workshop writing assignment that challenged him to pen something personal using a song title. Rapper Lupe Fiasco’s debut single from 2006 is “Kick, Push.” Banks used his prose to recount visiting his brother in prison; he talked about their exchange through the protective glass.

Onstage is artist Joonbug Lenworth McIntosh standing before a blank canvas with colored markers at the ready. He’s desperately searching for inspiration. Suddenly he hears the phrase “Kick, Push.” McIntosh makes the immediate connection, as Lupe Fiasco happens to be his favorite rapper. By the end of the DaVerse Lounge show, McIntosh finished an eye-popping portrait of a kid fervently riding a skateboard.

Kick…push…

Four days later, on November 24, DaVerse Lounge creator Will Richey and McIntosh head over to Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy to present Banks with that awesome “Kick, Push” painting during the school’s morning assembly.

“He had no idea he was getting this painting,” says Richey. “Johnny was stunned. Joonbug comes over and meets Johnny, tells the whole assembly about his work. Johnny got to spend a lot of time with Joonbug. It was really cool.”

That’s the power of DaVerse Lounge.

DaVerse Lounge thanks TACA for its continued generous support.

Pictured (from left to right): Johnny Banks, Joonbug Lenworth McIntosh, Debyron Jones and Will Richey.

Big ThoughtKick, Push: DaVerse Lounge Connects Poet, Artist
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DaVerse Lounge 11th Season Launches

By Mario Tarradell, Public Relations & Marketing Manager

My voice has power to speak my truth and share my light

The mantra shook the room. More than 400 disciples soaked in an ambiance of peace, love and poetry during the 11th season opening performance of DaVerse Lounge at Life in Deep Ellum on Friday, Oct. 2, 2015. Spoken word, music, singing, freestyle storytelling: It was a night of self-expression. It was a night to unleash the soul and embrace the spirit.

The event brought out 42 schools – 6 elementary, 12 middle, 21 high schools and 3 colleges. Melody Memory, the slamming funk-jazz-hip-hop band fronted by Big Thought Creative Solutions and DaVerse Lounge life coach and teaching artist Alejandro Pérez, Jr., commanded the platform. Melody Memory provided sonic embellishment for the poets and occasionally took a deserved spin under a glowing spotlight.

This was all about the poets, though, and emcee Will Richey called up 38 performers. Richey is the man who created DaVerse Lounge in 2005 with Lisa Holland of the Dallas Theater Center and now Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. The DaVerse Lounge mission has always been to encourage the safe and organic exchange of thoughts, ideas and emotions.

“Share your joy, share your pain,” says Richey. “Joy multiplies, pain divides.”

That balance is at the essence of humanity; it fuels the DaVerse Lounge experience. Throughout the 3-hour event, punctuated by graphic scribe and canvas artists, we heard deep, probing words about death, skin color, identity, addiction, sobriety, pain, prison, child abuse, and how a black woman turns burgundy when she blushes. Many of the poets were first-timers, some were alums, while others were guests. The warmth, the instant acceptance was all the same.

“It’s that safe space and spirit we cultivate that brings them back,” says Richey. “For them it’s a lifeline. It was a lifeline then and it’s a lifeline now. It’s magical but it’s also very intentional.”

Big Thought partnered with DaVerse Lounge and Richey’s own Journeyman Ink in 2009, after the first four years at the Dallas Theater Center. The relationship has been nurturing and symbiotic, from the creating of curriculum to the production of four DaVerse Lounge events a season. The 11th season will continue with performances Nov. 20, 2015 as well as Feb. 5 and April 1, 2016. There are 13 DaVerse Clubs in DISD middle and high school campuses with an average of 10-15 students per club. Each campus has a DISD teacher involved in sponsoring the club.

The impact of DaVerse Lounge is everlasting, a beacon that remains illuminated. Anthony Haynes, a DaVerse Lounge alumnus who dates back to the program’s inception in 2005, took the stage Oct. 2. He sang, he spoke, and he bared his soul yet again. Haynes, now married with two children and a full-time job, credits DaVerse Lounge for giving him a voice, a place to turn turmoil into catharsis.

It’s no wonder that Haynes is the DaVerse Lounge poster child, literally. His face adorned the promotional flyer for the 11th season opening show.

“I didn’t really write poetry per se before DaVerse Lounge,” says Haynes. “I didn’t have an outlet to share my experiences in words with other people. I went through something and didn’t feel comfortable talking to somebody about it. But through DaVerse Lounge I would expose myself and that helped me take out my frustrations, take something negative and turn it into something positive. I met people that I may not have met before that had similar experiences. You no longer feel alone.”

That connection is all about emotional literacy, Richey preaches. Emotional literacy connects people. It connects him to Pérez, with whom he’s worked for more than a decade. Richey’s brotherhood with Pérez, and consequently their working relationship, continues to evolve and grow, which in turn gives DaVerse Lounge the perfect amount of fluidity.

“Emotional literacy allows people with degrees to connect with people in the street,” says Richey. “Emotional literacy connects a mother and a father.”

Emotional literacy is at the crux of DaVerse Lounge’s philosophy of equality and inclusion. “When you step through that door the children and the adults are emotionally seeing eye to eye,” says Richey. “We don’t treat children like children; we treat children like human beings. We don’t treat adults like adults; we treat adults like human beings.”

In 11 seasons of DaVerse Lounge, Richey proudly confirms, there hasn’t been a single incident of fighting, graffiti, vandalism, illicit sex or runaway kids. This is an ambiance that fosters goodwill, it’s an intergenerational, multi-dimensional, freely open and positive environment. There are no grades, no forced competition, no scores, no tests, and no judging based on religious or political affiliation.

“When you strip all of that away,” says Richey, “all that you are left with is the essence of humanity.”

My voice has power to speak my truth and share my light

Big ThoughtDaVerse Lounge 11th Season Launches
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