Originally posted to Facebook on July 1, 2020
Today's #WCW goes out to local spoken word poet, author, and visual artist, Gradalove! We are so excited to have Gradalove as a panelist in our upcoming panel discussion: Inclusivity in the Arts as a part of our festival on August 8th.
Some of Gradalove's recent accomplishments include releasing her first poetry book, Brave New Soul, in 2019 and going on a book tour that included performing on WUSA9's Great Day Washington during National Poetry Month. She is a Busboys and Poets 11th hour poetry slam champion. Her creations are reflections of her experiences- all aspects of love, self-discovery, and storytelling observations. This June, she launched her podcast, Marrying the UniGod (MTUniGod.com), which reclaims spiritual practices that belong to people of color and takes viewers across borders to explore different pathways and spiritual journeys. Also, in 2020, she co-founded the DMV Renaissance Awards with fellow poets Kristina Grey and Crystal Lyn to celebrate local poets and their talent.
Here's a little Q&A with Gradalove:
Q: What inspired you to start the DMV Renaissance Awards? How did it begin?
A: Honestly, Crystal Lyn, Kristina Grey, and I were sitting together at Pure Poetry open mic and Kristina whispers to us, "These poets are so dope. They deserve some awards." Then she said something along the lines of having an awards show, so I drafted a Google doc for planning and we kept bringing it up in our group chat. Somehow, we just couldn't sit on that idea- it had to live. So here we are in 2020 with the DMV Renaissance Awards, set to have its first show in 2021, thanks to COVID-19.
Q: Tell us about your organization's approach to connecting artists and building community.
A: We host a monthly open mic every third Friday on Instagram live with a local feature. We also spotlight different artists, hosts, and open mic events in the DMV area on our social media platforms. The annual awards show will have eighteen categories for other poets and supporters to nominate their favorites and vote on the finalists.
Q: What do people walk away with after one of your events?
A: People walk away with a sense of community and recognition for their art. Oftentimes, artists feel like they're just plugging away at developing their craft without being seen, but receiving recognition for your work is invaluable. We seek to provide a sense of community and celebration for all of the work they do.
Q: What does growth look like for your organization/mission?
A: Growth looks like providing a platform for poets to take their artistry to the next level. We look forward to national outlets watching the DMV Renaissance Awards and discovering our talented homegrown poets.
Q: You recently shared a piece at one of our open mic events titled "Open Mic Therapy." Can you speak to what brought you to the open mic scene and what your art means to you?
A: That piece is so special to me. I grew up going to AA meetings with my grandmother and at the end, they say, "Keep coming back, it works if you work it." It being the program. I didn't realize how much that had impacted me because I wrote that poem without those meetings in mind. However, I realize that “Open Mic Therapy” has become our form of a support group. When no one else understands or empathizes, or even when they do, we still bring it to the mic for expression and release.
Q: What else would you like people to know?
A: I would like people to know that your journey starts with
you. Whether that’s your creative, professional, or spiritual journey- it always starts with the reflection and the work you’re willing to do. No goal is out of reach. You just have to set your intentions and keep showing up for yourself.
Want more Gradalove? Here you go!
Podcast Site: www.mtunigod.com