Besskepp
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Besskepp

La Puente, California, United States

La Puente, California, United States
Band Spoken Word Hip Hop

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Spoken word poetry has a passionate and vibrant ambassador, Besskepp. During our workshop, for Jewish students and young adults from across California, Besskepp and his team partner Bomani, took the students on an adventure in poetry mechanics, design, and writing. Each participants felt comfortable to experiment and read their poetry, and received excellent coaching and advice. Both Besskepp and Bomani expressed that what they try to do is help people write poetry that is inside them, and that is exactly what happened. We enjoyed our time very much, and look forward to working again with them in the future.

Rabbi Yonah Bookstein
Director, Jewish Student Services


_______________
Rabbi Yonah Bookstein
Campus Rabbi, Beach Hillel & Hillel of Orange County
Beachhillel.com

Director, Jewish Student Services
JewishStudentServices.com

Contact info:
rabbiyonah@gmail.com C:562-355-2939 O:562-985-7068
AIM: RabbiYonah

On the web:
rabbiyonah.com
Myspace.com/rabbiyonah
Jewlicious.com
Kabbalywood.com
- JewishStudentServices.com


Written by Justin Phillips
Thursday, 16 February 2006

The Soulstic Poetry Slam brought together the sound and strength of Black History Month last Friday at the Union Sports Annex. The program was organized by Marquette University Student Government, Office of Student Development, and Interim Assistant Dean for Intercultural Programs Pam Peters.
A diverse audience came out to see Corey Cofer (who goes by Besskepp) and Bridget Gray perform poetry centering around Black History Month and racial issues.
HBO poet Besskepp is the founder of A Mic and Dim Lights, a Los Angeles poetry venue. Gray is featured on HBO’s Def Poetry as well. Both poets provide insightful views on issues affecting the black community. The audience for the event included people of all races and backgrounds, focusing around diversity during Black History Month. The poets promoted ‘Black Love,’ a major focus of Black History Month.
“The Poetry Slam gives people insight on culture of African Americans to express their political views. Also, it emphasizes the use of sound historically through the African American culture,” said Peters.
The event kicked off with Besskepp speaking out on a variety of issues including the importance of education and how he would like to see more African Americans in college than in prisons.
In Besskepp’s second poem, he spoke about his home town of Trinidad, Texas. Half of the poem was devoted to his desire to return to Trinidad, reminiscing about his childhood and his cherished memories. The other half spoke out on the racism of Trinidad, saying the only reason he wanted to go back was to see things that he wished he could forget.
Following Besskepp’s performance, Gray loosened up the crowd with a comical but deep poem on her African and white roots and how she was half everything but always thinking.
Gray then spoke on the acting career she had once pursued. She had hopes of being the “female Spike Lee” but she couldn’t land roles that portrayed her to be than a stereotypical black female: the beaten prostitute, crack whore, gold digger or single mother.
Grey recounted her trials and tribulations as a struggling actor in one of her poems. Grey’s second poem was on the problems of modern hip-hop, including objectification of women and distasteful lyrics.
According to Grey, hip-hop is doing nothing to aid the black community. This poem premiered at the Def Poetry Jam but was never aired due to disagreements with Def Poetry Jam organizer and founder Russell Simmons. The poem brought cheers both during and after its performance at Marquette.
Following these two poets, there was a time for aspiring writers to let their work shine. Peters expressed some concern about the open mic idea but said, “I thought the open mic poets were good.”
Peters read one of her own poems and then “showed some love” by reciting “Still I Rise” by popular black poet Maya Angelou.
Peters originally came up with the idea for Soulistic Groove in college where a poetry slam was held monthly. It was there that she met Besskepp and Gray and decided Marquette needed this kind of poetry on its campus.
Both Gray and Besskepp along with the rest of the Soulistic crew sported shirts by Black Love, a clothing line created by a Marquette grad student.
While future events are unknown, the turn-out and excitement could foreshadow more poetry slams to come.
- Marquette University Press


By Lee Ballinger

We don't have poetry slams, says Besskepp, impresario of A Mic and Dim Lights, the weekly Pomona poetry event that's now in its sixth year of mind-opening. A lot of times when venues have poetry slams, you get a lot of tension, a lot of competitiveness. Not having slams sends the message that we're just here for poetry, we're here for each other.
We're here for each other had a special meaning in the early days of A Mic and Dim Lights. Besskepp aka Cory Cofer, former University of LaVerne all-conference football player and current high school special ed teacher in West Covina didn't have much company. In fact, the crew of poets who came to read would sometimes just sit around a table and perform.
But the concept of a venue for IE wordsmiths gradually took hold. A Mic and Dim Lights outgrew its first home at the Millennial Arts Lounge and its second one at Taco de Nazo. It now attracts upwards of 100 people a week to the Cal Poly Pomona Downtown Center.
When you arrive on their usual Thursday nights, you walk by vendors in the plaza, through the lobby (where there's always an art show up on the walls) and into the theater. Plush seats. Plenty of room. JB the DJ playing great underground hip-hop. People you've never met greet you warmly. And the lights are, indeed, very dim.
The vibe is deliberate. Besskepp, who says hip-hop is what inspired him to become a writer, explains: When you first write something down on a piece of paper, a lot of times it's considered a journal entry. When you edit it, it can become a poem. When you read it out loud, it can become spoken-word. When you perform it, it can become a performance piece. But a lot of the poems that people write on a piece of paper, with this generation of poets right now, they can actually say it to a beat as well, so it can be hip-hop. Right now you have a lot of poets kicking poems over beats. The line is being blurred.
Yet the boundaries at A Mic and Dim Lights go beyond the junction of poetry and hip-hop. Professors come and read; so do senior citizens. It's not unusual to hear a poet offer Christian testimony, followed by a poet delivering steaming hot erotica. In fact, Erotic Night is one of many theme nights. There's also Ladies Night, with a female host, all female poets, and a female DJ (the men do the grunt work and provide each lady with a gift). There's Napkin Poetry Night, designed for short new poems and to make new poets feel comfortable. And, yes, there's Hip-Hop Verse Night, where each poet performs their favorite stanzas from a hip-hop song, seldom getting beyond the second line before being joined by much of the crowd.
As the reputation of A Mic and Dim Lights has grown, its stage has attracted well-known poets like Saul Williams, Bridget Gray, Luis Rodriguez, Georgia Me and Jerry Quickly. There have been poets at the mic from Canada, Sweden and Australia, not to mention San Diego, Bakersfield and Oakland. Yet no matter who the featured poet is, the best poet of the night may be someone no one in the house knows an unemployed teenager or an older techie who somehow found their way to that stage, only to make you think about the world, and sometimes even about poetry itself, in new ways.
Collectively, this operation is run by a group of artists known as The Alumni. Besides Besskepp, it includes Brother Davooay, Tamara Blue, Kat, Ghetto Spear, LaVoice, Bomani and Mark Gonzalez. They often take their show on the road, performing at high schools, colleges, even jails. Recently, The Alumni held forth for 700 boys and girls at the chapel in LA's Central Juvenile Hall.
We got a call from a teacher there, Besskepp relates, who told us that the day after we were at Juvenile Hall was the first time that a lot of those kids had ever picked up a pen and written in the classroom. To write a poem. Stuff like that makes it all worthwhile.
A Mic and Dim Lights also has a friendly rivalry with the largest spoken-word venue in Southern California, Hollywood's Da Poetry Lounge. Last year, the two played each other in basketball, with the winner getting a chance to host a night at the loser's place. Pomona's poets beat Hollywood's, the IE commandeered the stage at Da Poetry Lounge, and now a hardwood rematch is in the air.
All this activity is infused with a social conscience, with a vision of a peaceful world without barriers. You can see it onstage at A Mic and Dim Lights, feel it in the crowd's warm embrace of poet and listener alike, and, above all, hear it in the words amplified by the mic in a dimly-lit theater. Like this verse, from Besskepp's Welcome to a New World:
Where everybody's affording the necessities
Nobody's hungry, thirsty, or roofless
Where the old and toothless got dental benefits
Benefit concerts not necessary because we're all rich
Even regular folk can survive off of being broke
Soak up soap operas and novellas
Cause that's the only drama

A Mic and Dim Lights at the Cal Poly - WORD IS BOND


Poetry was taken alive by the sound and rhythm of voices Wednesday when Def Poet BessKepp came to XLHF Def Poetry Night, sponsored by the Cesar E. Chavez Center.

The HBO Def Poet and teacher, who is fluent in old school lyrics by LL Cool J, Grand Master Flash and others who are known as pioneers of the hip–hop culture used Biggie Smalls’ popular message, “With more money comes more problems,” to explain what happens to African–American and Latino people in American society.

Held in the Bronco Student Center’s Ursa Major suite, students learned it is the spoken word that reaches people through its familiar hip hop lyrics and discussing politics, race, culture, racism and sexism.

The night was full of interaction through creativity and expression through words.

BessKepp was joined by Mark Gonzales, a playwright and fellow HBO Def Poet, as well as Gabriela Garcia, who was fierce with her language skills and empowered the passion of words through her body language.

With a book in hand, Garcia used gestures to help tell the stories and experiences she was feeling.

“It made you wanna do something,” said Gabriella Muniz, a second–year psychology student. “She gave me chills.”

Garcia’s work is done to improve the self–empowerment of youth through theatre.

“I really liked Gabriela,” said Ashlynn Whitman, a second–year accounting student. “She was very passionate and she moved me.”

“It kinda makes you think. It brings [out] a lot of issues we don’t really address in society,” said Krystle Penamante, a fourth–year hotel and restaurant management student.

All three speakers are members of The Human Writes Project, a group of professional activists/artists/poets who deconstruct social inequalities of race, class and politics through spoken word.

“I thought it was really creative and good,” said Sharon Moore, a hotel and restaurant management and Gems senior. “I liked how they had the whole African, Latino thing. It helps to represent one cause.”

The crowd participated during the night, offering cheers as they agreed with lyrics.

Others shouted out words of encouragement and applauded the verses they could relate to.

Heads nodded in agreement as troubles–o–me issues were addressed.

“I liked it because it brought spoken word to a college campus,” said Moore. “A lot of people don’t realize how deep it is.”

The Def Poetry Night expressed the fact we all have different outlets, but how we choose to communicate those outlets is what makes us unique.

Whether put out by graffiti artist, beat boxers or painters, def poetry uses familiar sounds to help generations understand and discuss issues affecting them in their neighborhoods.

“I appreciate how Mexican and African–American cultures get together and express themselves,” said Cachefa Bruce, a second–year communication student.

After a stirring “round robin,” the panel made time for a Q&A session.

Students raised queries of social injustices, Palestinian issues and how the media is relevant in many of today’s image problems.

“I thought they did a good job,” said Jordana Howard, a fifth–year sociology student. “I thought it was inspiring.”

The room filled up as the night went on and many stayed after to talk with the panel.

“I was very surprised that no one left,” said Corina Benavides, senior coordinator for the Cesar E. Chavez Center.

“Usually when you have night events, you don’t get much participation.”

The artists who performed generated an awareness of what is happening in their neighborhoods. They tried making it as real as possible, clarifying views of social inequalities, misrepresentations and struggles we are all facing.

“It went really well and we got to have dialogue with the audience,” said Benavides. “It allowed people to share their feelings about these issues [and] topics that are not discussed.” - The Poly Post


Discography

Bluze Langwij
The Hey Moment

Photos

Bio

HBO Def Poet, author, and national slam team member, Besskepp merges originality and heritage with performance. He has a written and appears in Homeless Beatboxer, a poetic stage production for the Hip Hop Theatre Festival. Besskepp has recorded with Hip Hop legend KRS-One and has appeared at dozens of colleges, festivals and coffeehouses. Yet, his work begins where most poets’ end. Twice named LA Times’ Teacher of the Year for his academic innovation which incorporates Hip Hop and Poetry by mixing classical structure with an urban flavor. Besskepp creates poetry that deconstructs the complex issues facing students using non-elitist language.

He has aired on BET’s The Way You Do It and Fox Television. His CD “Bluze Langwij”, was described by Rock and Rap Confidential as “the most musical mixture of spoken word with the instrumental truth”. His poetry addresses pertinent issues such as equal rights, single-parent households, education, and the influences of Hip Hop on our society