Brooklyn Boro

Poetry 2016 comes to BAM April 8, 9

April 6, 2016 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Baba Israel. Photo by Joel Chester Fildes

On April 8 and 9, Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) will present “Poetry 2016: Past is Present,” a resonant performance that takes the audience through the pantheon of spoken word and hip-hop. Performing at 7:30 p.m. at BAM Fisher (321 Ashland Place), the artists will link the present day to foundations and voices from yesteryear in a seamless display of power, energy and truth

The dynamic Baba Israel will return as the host and director. This year’s line-up includes the poets Liza Jessie Petersen, Climbing PoeTree, Flaco Navaja and Jennifer Cendaña Armas, with music by DJ Reborn and a musical performance by Yako440. In addition, four students from BAM Education’s poetry residency, Brooklyn Reads, have been selected through an online voting process to perform in this annual main-stage show. These students have been chosen out of 500 high school participants to present their work alongside the professional artists in Poetry 2016.

Baba Israel began his career as an arts educator in Australia and has gone on to be a leading educator and consultant working with organizations such as Urban Word, BAM and the University of Madison. He worked as a cultural ambassador with the State Department and served as artistic director and CEO of Contact Theatre in Manchester from 2009 to 2012. Israel is the co-founder and artistic director of Playback NYC Theatre Company, which brings theater to under-represented communities; he has served as a lead teaching artist for the Brooklyn Reads education program at BAM.

Liza Jessie Peterson is a renowned actress, poet, playwright, educator and activist who has been committed to incarcerated populations for 17 years. She has performed excerpts from her play “The Peculiar Patriot” in more than 35 jails and penitentiaries across the country. Peterson is also known for her skills as a poet, beginning her poetry career at the Nuyorican Poets Café in the mid-90s and was a vital member of the enclave of notable poets who were part of the underground slam poetry/spoken word movement. 

Jennifer Cendaña Armas is an actor and writer dedicated to telling stories of diasporas. As a first generation Filipino-American, this commitment is rooted in growing up in immigrant neighborhoods of Queens, and representing the racial lineage of Filipino culture. Armas has performed in the Americas, Asia, Africa and Europe.

Climbing PoeTree is the combined work of Alixa Garcia and Naima Penniman. Over the last 12 years, Climbing PoeTree has been at the forefront of the social and environmental justice movement by sharpening their art as a tool for popular education, community organizing and personal transformation. Its award-winning performance is composed of dual-voice, spoken word poetry, hip-hop and multi-media theater.

Flaco Navaja is a singer, poet and actor born and raised in the Bronx. He sings in both Spanish and English and has toured with various groups around the world. Pairing a nostalgic old sound with brand new spoken word, Navaja’s original style of poetry combines singing, beat-boxing and spoken word.

DJ Reborn is a Brooklyn-based DJ who has been moving audiences for more than a decade with her mellifluous blend of soul, hip-hop, reggae, house, Latin, electronic and Afrobeat. She has spun at shows by artists including the Roots, Common, Talib Kweli, John Legend and India.Arie. DJ Reborn has also spun exclusive events for Maxwell, Metallica and Lauryn Hill, as well as for visual artists Kara Walker and Wangechi Mutu.

YAKO 440 is a musician, beat maker, graffiti writer and graphic designer. He attended Berklee College of Music, and his musical skill set includes human beatbox, bass, guitar, keys, turntables and drums. YAKO 440 has toured and created original music for Baba Israel’s shows “Boombap Meditations” and “The Spinning Wheel Keeps Turning,” performed and composed a beatbox score for the play “How to Break” by Aaron Jafferis, and is well traveled with the improvisational hip-hop theater troupe Playback NYC.