jessica Care moore (solo poet)
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jessica Care moore (solo poet)

Detroit, Michigan, United States

Detroit, Michigan, United States
Band Spoken Word Comedy

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Coming back to the city where you grew up is a profound kind of return. It's a reunion with part of yourself. There are memories, family and all the shapes and textures of experience — good or bad — that made their impressions on you and helped you dream of what you could be. And, maybe, rediscovering your hometown can help you realize what you've become.

One year ago, jessica Care moore (she adds the "Care" and special capitalization as a feminist statement in the spirit of author bell hooks) moved back to Detroit from Atlanta. Before that, she was living in New York City. She'd been away from Detroit for about 12 years, building her career as a successful poet, performer and publisher. Now she resides with her 2-year-old son, King Moore Poole, in a spacious apartment near Wayne State University. On a recent overcast afternoon, she answers her front door wearing beaded braids and dream-catcher earrings. She looks comfortable and at ease in worn blue jeans and a T-shirt that shows the bold "D" tattooed on her arm.

The walls inside her home are covered in art, the tables stacked with books. The place is eclectic and reflects the adventurous creative spirit of its owner in many ways. This is where moore spends her days writing poetry and running Moore Black Press, the publishing company she founded in 1997 in order to release her first book, The Words Don't Fit in My Mouth. Back then she was a sort of darling on the performance poetry scene, a five-time Showtime at the Apollo winner and a featured artist on Russell Simmons' HBO series, Def Poetry Jam.

At that time she was introducing work like the raw, confrontational "Black Girl Juice," in which a young woman lays claim to the language and attitudes that attempt to define her:

... Black tears, she sometimes cries
but, one sip, and you'll believe
Braided hair, natural cut or curly weave
nails with acrylic tips, and wide-shaped
hips.
Most men fiend to hump her
Nails cut off, she has a nice touch on
her jumper.
Revolutionary waters, she's your mother,
auntie, sister-friend and daughter...

Those words, delivered in moore's raspy energetic style, inspired many of those who heard them to run to their local bookstores for poetry by "that girl from Apollo with the braids." Distributors started calling moore's home. The book sold more than 20,000 copies. A few years later, she released her second book, a collection of poetry and essays called The Alphabet Verses the Ghetto.

In the last 12 years, moore's done a lot of living, performing and growing. She's 36 now, and she's gone from making a big splash as a young prodigy on the stage of the famed Apollo to becoming a real force in the world of poetry and art. Since 1997, she's published books of poetry by poets Saul Williams and Shariff Simmons, Def Poetry Jam co-founder Danny Simmons, NBA player Etan Thomas, poet and activist Ras Baraka, and former Essence magazine editor Asha Bendele. She's performed in Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, Berlin, Paris, Holland, England, Scotland and all over the United States. The National Black Arts festival made her a curator and producer, as well as a featured artist. She became the youngest poet published in the Prentice Hall Anthology of African American Women's Literature. She's even got her own band, Detroit Read (pronounced "red"). And the list goes on.

It's not like moore is all about career, though. Her work and personal life are intertwined. Becoming a mother to King and her four step-children has allowed her to, as her bio says, "extend her mothering spirit." In 2000, she married poet Sharrif Simmons (no relation to Danny or Russell) and moved to Atlanta. The marriage ended after three years, and moore relocated to New York City. Her recent divorce from her second husband, Flint music producer Kenyatta Poole, played a big part in her decision to return to Detroit. She was a single mom still nursing a 1-year-old.

"It was a very emotional time for me," moore says. "I needed to be around my family and friends."

Her place is near the museums and galleries she frequents; the riverfront isn't far away. Moore wouldn't have it any other way. But she's also close enough to friends, siblings and her parents, who still live in the same west side neighborhood where she was raised. So she came back to all the support and love she knew before, the stuff that made Detroit "home." Now, a year later, she's been so active performing, lecturing in schools and running her press, it seems there might be a bigger purpose for her here.

"I was divorcing [King's] father, and my whole family is in Detroit," moore says. "That's the reason I came. The reason I stayed is a different story. Everything is for bigger reasons than you ever planned. I'm still figuring it out."


Whether the topic is love, success, heartbreak or failure, the poet in moore is as comfortable talking about her own life as she is talking about politics, literacy or AIDS activism. For he - Detroit Metro Times


Jessica Care moore’s story reads like an old Hollywood discovery story. You know how it goes. Pretty girl from Kansas sits at the drugstore counter with a root beer float and becomes a star. Except this pretty girl was from Detroit and she went to Harlem. And instead of drinking a root beer float she was spitting verses. Verses so tough that she won five consecutive times on “It’s Showtime at the Apollo.”

She continued to make history by establishing Moore Black Press and publishing Saul William’s The Seventh Octave: Early Writings of Saul Williams before he became a star in Slam. Poetry has taken her all over the country, to Europe and to Africa. But for this internationally renowned poet, raised on Detroit’s northwest side, poetry is only one of her loves. The art world is her oyster and Renaissance Woman, jessica Care moore, regularly creates pearls. She recently sat down for a virtual chat with the Examiner.com.

What inspired you to write?

My drama teacher and class, La Troupe Des Arts, opened me up to the stage and encouraged me to find and read amazing writers like Ntozake Shange. That changed my life. My drama coach, Susan Storey, is a legend. She’s inspired so many of us that came out during that time period.

How does poetry connect you to film and theatre?

When I was working with Nas on Nastradamus, he told me that each line of my poems was like a movie. That always stuck with me and to me the connection is natural. I want to tell stories and I love the page. But I want to move beyond the stage even. I am focusing my stories into film more than ever. I have to keep reinventing my work; my writing has to evolve, so I don’t get bored!!

Why did you choose to do a One Woman Show?

God is not an American is my third solo show and my 4th play. There are No Asylums for the Real Crazy Women and Alphaphobia were the first two. I am soooo inspired and consider Roger Guenveur Smith one of my mentors. His amazing piece, Huey P. Newton Story, blew me away. It shows what an actor can really do, to be able to capture an audience with words, and minimal stage props, etc. I also studied John Leguizamo’s Freak!! Amazing show… God is not an American is multi media. I couldn’t just tell it with poems. I had to have songs and my vocalist, Steffanie Christi’an, is sick. She makes me cry on stage.

What are your upcoming film and theatre projects?

I’m adapting my play, The Revolution in the Ladies Room, into a film with my film associate, Herman Jenkins. I’m co-starring in an indie feature being shot in Detroit this month called A Solemn Trance and I’m the lead in a short film being shot in LA in September by West Coast poet/filmmaker CBONE jones about the Virginia Tech Shootings. God is not an American will be available on DVD soon!!!!

Why did you return to Detroit?

My son, King Thomas, is my joy and the devil was working on stealing my joy in Atlanta. I had to do what I had to do. Coming home has been a blessing. Don’t know if I’ll stay forever, but it’s perfect for now. But, oh, these winters… Won’t be around for that!!!

How does the Detroit arts and culture scene compare to other scenes across the country?

Detroit is special. We are blue collar poets. We are working class people which makes for working class writers and artists. It’s been hard for me because there aren’t many or enough full-time artists here. We need to create money, grants and opportunities for artists to continue to make viable art here, so artists like myself and others can feel supported and believe they can make a life in our city.

What is your favorite thing about Detroit?

The way the men walk.

When is your show coming to Detroit?

My show is coming to Detroit as soon as a producer steps up and produces my show here. It’s so bittersweet for me. My show is being produced by Apollo and then by city parks in Brooklyn and Harlem. And my show is all about Detroit. I’d love to do it here. So, somebody holla at me!!!

Is there anything else you would like readers to know?

I’m going to be doing a REAL release of God is not an American in September and you can get the book online when it’s available: www.mooreblackpress.com. Party to be announced!! Please support Moore Black Press and authors!! I’m going to be having a fall sale of books in general. I need to keep the press going and I can’t do it without support!!! The Jess Care Moore Foundation is about to jump off and I’m already working on my first community project in Detroit.

jessica Care moore will be performing at the 27th Annual African World Festival and International Caribbean Festival & Parade on Saturday, August 15 at 9:30 p.m. This free show will be held on Detroit’s Hart Plaza at the Underground Cafe. For more information about the African World Festival visit the website at http://www.awfdetroit.com/ - Harlem World Blog


Jessica Care Moore's poems-fearless, resilient words with such real muscle-have continually spoken to and helped define a generation of urbanistas and our brothers, lovers, Daddies, cousins and homies. Once again she does not disappont. With God is Not an American she pushes us, pulls us, coaxes and calls us along with her on the rides of our lives: the rough, smooth, sexy, ugly, beautiful, rich, impoverished, kind and mean rides. Here she reminds us of the absolute power of and need for authenticity in any creative process. And I, for one, am both ever grateful and more, renewed. --asha bandele, author, poet, The Subtle Art of Breathing

jessica Care moore writes that she writes to remind herself that she is a writer. Yet her writing has always leaped from the page like a healthy compulsion. To read her work is to understand that there are writer's who do so for their very survival; to cope, to process, to keep from killing. (To see her perform her work is another experience altogether---her powerful, sometimes rapid delivery can feel like a shower of bombs). She writes about the poet's diary as a time capsule for others to find and rewind, imagining that she may one day be torn from her page but with jessica there is no distance between who she is and her page, her work. Any future excavation of her work would likely summon her fire-throwing ghost itself. She breathes and bleeds for her poems, and we are all made anew by her sacrifice. --dream hampton, filmmaker, journalist - Amazon.com


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

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Bio

Internationally renowned poet/ publisher/ activist/ rock star/ playwright/ actress and mother has returned home to Detroit. jessica Care moore is the five-time Showtime at the Apollo winner; since, she has featured on hip-hop mega-star, Nas' “Nastradamus” album and Russell Simmon's HBO Series, Def Poetry Jam.

After her legendary win on the Apollo stage, jessica Care moore was approached by several book publishing companies, but in 1997, she paved her own path and launched a publishing company of her own - Moore Black Press. Which has released her first book; “The Words Don't Fit In My Mouth,” and sold more than 20,000 copies. A few years later, she followed up with her second collection of poetry and essays, “The Alphabet Verses The Ghetto.” This talented powerhouse was commissioned by The Apollo Theater to debut her new multi media solo theater show, God is Not an American. Her show sold out the Apollo Theater Salon Series and she toured the work in France and Amsterdam.

Moore Black Press proudly published famed poets, Saul Williams and Shariff Simmons; Def Poetry Jam's co-founder, Danny Simmons, NBA basket-ball player, Etan Thomas, activist and poet, Ras Baraka and former Essence Magazine editor and author, Asha Bandele.

This bold and electric artist has shared the stage with the late Ossie Davis, CeCe Winans, Gregory Hines, Anthony David, Norah Jones, Amiri Baraka, Patti Labelle, Roy Ayers, Mos Def, The Last Poets, Sonia Sanchez, Talib Kweli, Nikki Giovanni, Steve Harvey, Maya Angelou and many others. In 1999, she was honored as Woman of the Year by the Harvard Black Men's Forum. Jessica has also been featured in Essence, Blaze, Source, Vibe, African Voices, Bomb, Mosaic, Good News, Savoy, One World, BE, Ambassador Magazine and others.