Kendrick Dial & The Lyrical Groove
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Kendrick Dial & The Lyrical Groove

San Diego, California, United States | SELF

San Diego, California, United States | SELF
Band Spoken Word R&B

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"Collective Purpose and their venue "Elevated""

Grab the mic, get Elevated
Spoken-word event finds a home and builds a community
By Michael Klam


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It's more like a performance-art revival than a poetry event. Music. Always music, the DJ using beats to carry the audience from poet to poet. The host, like a beloved minister, has his room at “Hello,” and when the first poet takes the stage, there is an audience awakening. The poet grips the mic and breaks a momentary thread of silence with a question: “How are you all feeling tonight?” The audience responds in harmony: “Elevated!”

Elevated, the combination open-mic night with featured special-guest readings, is just one of the spoken-word events that have started since R. Spot Books on University Avenue closed last year. Hosted by Collective Purpose, a motley young bunch of spoken-word artists who think live performance is part and parcel of poetry, the event was born out of the necessity to unify a community of writers and poets left without a home. The collective crew came together and went looking for a space to perform.

They found what they were looking for at the Arts & Entertainment Center on University Avenue in North Park, a multipurpose community center with a gallery in front, a performance space in back and a powerful mural coloring the outside wall facing the alley. On Thursday nights, people cram into the back of the center to see the poets perform-the crowds have become big enough for the collective to switch Elevated from a bimonthly to a weekly event.

Last month, Collective Purpose celebrated Elevated's one-year anniversary-more than 300 fans lined up to see invited guest, Talaam Acey, a National Poetry Slam champion. But many in the crowd came to share in the collective's successes as a local arts-collaborative force and community builder. So what's the secret? How does Collective Purpose get hundreds of people to a poetry show on a Thursday night?

“We decided to pool our talents and our resources,” says Christopher Wilson, who acts as the group's manager. Collective Purpose has a core crew of seven people that includes some of San Diego's most well-known poets: Anthony Blacksher (aka Ant Black), Eugene Albert III (aka The Passionate Poet), Kendrick Dial (aka Conscious), Rudy Francisco, Viet Mai, tai li la mumba mugambee and Wilson.

The collective is a tight-knit group. Their collaboration and support for one another is apparent to the Elevated crowd, and that translates into the audience's willingness to join in and participate in the performances. The poet hosts are skilled at eliciting reaction; from the start of every event, they make it known that Elevated is not a quiet poetry reading. The audience is encouraged to jump in and engage the performers and each other, sometimes through laughter and applause, other times through dialogue or even heated debates after the shows.

“Usually 20 to 30 percent of the audience stays afterward to talk about what was said, how it affected them,” says Francisco. “We are a forum for free speech. People are going to have different opinions on what is said during course of the night.”

“And if someone has a differing opinion,” adds Wilson, “they are welcome to get up on stage during the show and respond.”

The collective uses the example of Cecil Hayduke, the host of the San Diego Poetry Slam. The collective says Hayduke took a few shots at their unabashed Christianity-a common, but not overriding, theme on the Elevated stage-during one of his visits to the event.

Collective Purpose took Hayduke's rant in stride, and the two separate events and hosts have come to share audiences. They've even started working together; there's an upcoming Elevated poetry slam in the works as a fundraiser and promotional event for creating a new San Diego national slam team. Chances are a few members of Collective Purpose will make the team if it comes to fruition.

While Elevated is a free-speech event, the group prefers to keep it clean. “We want to make sure it's tasteful,” explains Francisco. “But it has to be over the top for us to censor.”

“It's a matter of truly offering something to the crowd versus pulling something out of your ass,” adds Dial. “Shocking people without a purpose-we don't want it.”

Wilson affirms that they don't want to censor anybody, but if things get out of hand, they will turn off the mic. “We had guy who did racist jokes,” he says. “We shut him down. Even though the mic is open, we have a duty to make sure that type of thing is not represented in our space: homophobia, racism against blacks, Latinos.”

The seven members of Collective Purpose say they are learning how to manage and grow the event as they go. They have become their own harshest and helpful critics.

“We are family,” says Dial. “I'm constantly learning from everybody. We give honest feedback so we are able to see growth in ourselves and others.”

“Everyone is openly critical of each other,” adds Viet Mai, the newest addition to the collective, “but all out of love and growth. It's not a harmful criticism. To have that is very important, especially if we're all trying to progress. Something that I always wanted was that collaborative spirit.”

“We stand together, united. It's powerful,” agrees Blacksher, who's featured in an upcoming KPBS documentary called Poetry Live(s) by San Diego State University professor Mark Freeman. Blacksher says the strength of Elevated is evident in the number of A-list performers willing to come from out of town and take the stage. “We're getting talked up in D.C., New York, all around the nation.”
- San Diego City Beat


"Hip Hop Saved My Life by BkSoul & Collective Purpose"

Those who like their hip-hop conscious and choreographed will want to check out Hip Hop Saved My Life, a collaboration between local dance collective bkSOUL and local spoken-word group Collective Purpose. Presented by Sushi: A Center for the Urban Arts—at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 26, though Saturday, March 28, and at 8 p.m. Sunday, March 29, at 390 11th Ave. in East Village—the performance uses dance, music, words and rhymes to explore the evolution of hip-hop and concepts ranging from racism, misogyny and violence to urban empowerment and hope. The performance is choreographed by bkSOUL’s Grace Shinhae Jun and features the spoken word of Ant Black, Kendrick Dial and Rudy Francisco. Sushi is always pay-what-you-can (but pay as much as possible—Sushi needs the money). www.sushiart.org. - San Diego City Beat


"Lyrics, Beats and Bricks"

Hip-hop, dance theater performances conceived and choreographed by Eveoke choreographer Ericka Aisha Moore in collaboration with Collective Purpose poet Kendrick Dial. Work exploring "what it means to carry the weight of our hearts in our hands through this powerful lens of hip-hop" boasts 13 dancers. Piece also features poetry of Ant Black and Rudy Francisco, scenic design with work by graffiti artist PROK 637. Walk-up tickets are "pay-what-you-can" within one hour before showtime. 619-238-1153. - S. D. Reader


"Juneteenth Celebration in San Diego"

The Juneteenth fair at Market Creek Plaza on June 20 offers a spoken-word performance by Collective Purpose, a poetry and “truth telling” troupe. - Union Tribune


"Collective Purpose @ All People's MLK Breakfast"

--Kasimu Harley, a mental-health clinician at Hoover High School, helped escort 22 students to the breakfast. He hoped King's legacy, along with Obama's presidency, will touch them and “really inspire them to be the best they can be.”

Two of the teens under Harley's watch, Magan Hassan, 16, and Eliyas Muhammed, 15, felt that spirit flow through poets Anthony Blacksher, Kendrick Dial and Rudy Francisco, part of a group called Collective Purpose.

They pulled in perhaps the event's biggest cheer when they shared their own composition, in which they reflected on ills that have afflicted urban communities, from violence to natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina. Each took his turn at the microphone.

“Even when hate isn't hunting us, it still haunts us,” said Dial of Spring Valley.

“The weight of hate will never be heavy enough to break your knees,” said Francisco of Del Mar, as the poem neared its end.

By design, the audience could not escape the specter of hate and other social problems during the event. The poets said organizers asked them to focus on the theme of hate, while other speakers called for overhauling health care and education.
- Union Tribune


"Spoken Word holds power in "Orchestrated Words""

Spoken-word artists use body language to accentuate the rhyme and rhythm of their socially relevant works, with themes that explore everything from sexuality to stereotypes.

It's an underground movement that marries poetry with performance art. Events are hawked online, through fliers stapled to college corkboards or by word of mouth.

When Ant Black performs, word travels fast.

The popular poet will be featured Saturday in “Orchestrated Words,” an evening of spoken-word performances backed by a classical string ensemble at California Center for the Arts, Escondido.

With his stand-up 1960s Afro, velvety speaking voice and slow, easy smile, Black (born Anthony Blacksher) appears accessible and laid-back.


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DATEBOOK

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“Orchestrated Words”
8 p.m. Saturday; California Center for the Arts, Escondido, 340 N. Escondido Blvd.; $30; (800) 988-4253

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When he recites his poetry, though, the San Marcos grade-school teacher exudes the passion of a prophet.

His poem “Alone” is a heart-wrenching work, told from the perspective of a guilt-ridden man despairing over his girlfriend's decision to terminate a pregnancy.

And thoughts of what your life would be, or could be, start to consume you completely / But that's not me

Somehow I don't believe I'm a good person who has made bad choices, I'm a bad person who can't hear the right voices.

When Black performs “Alone” at poetry slams, his body bounces and his hands punctuate the air, much like a rap artist emphasizes a lyric.

The raw personal dialogue resonates with bitter remorse. In “Orchestrated Words,” the tone of the work takes on a melancholy sentiment by incorporating the improvisational talents of classical musicians.

“It's a regretful poem,” Black said. “The audience almost goes away, and it's this conversation between you and the violinist. Same words, but a whole different feel to it.”

The violinist is Shara Joy Pryor, who performs with guitarist Adam Turner, Charles Welty on upright bass and pianist Jonathan Fadner. Experimenting with the different ways poetry can be expressed is the impetus behind many of Black's performances.

Last year, he collaborated with a modern dancer when he recited “A Lifetime Writing” at a North Park venue. This time, the poem will be enhanced by gospel recording artist Evangel and the M.O.R. singers.

“Orchestrated Words” also showcases poets Rudy Francisco, Kendrick Dial and Philip Dane Jerge, all members of Collective Purpose, a community of artists who stage spoken-word nights at North Park's Arts & Entertainment Center.

In the poem “We Take Flight,” Jerge sums up the connection the artists have with one another:

We brainstorm until a hurricane forms and swarms the sea shore causing a tidal wave bigger than anyone's seen before

Our vocal chords speak a speech filled with lore and light

We tap into each other's core to learn more as the heat soars and we take flight.

- Union Tribune


Discography

K.Dial & Lyrical Groove EP
August 2011

Kendrick Dial-Book
The Journey Notwithstanding-2005

Photos

Bio

Kendrick Dial is an artist who brings a sensitive blend of poetry, music, and songwriting that couples entertainment with a message. After performing as a performance poet for over 6 years Kendrick Dial recognized his love for live music, he began writing performing with a live band. The music is comprised of cross of hip hop/rnb/soulful jazz. Kendrick is the reflection of what happens when you take a desire to positively impact the world with artistry and an understanding the dynamics that cripple our society and the insight to provide wisdom and solutions. This is entertainment that encourages the soul.
Kendrick currently recruits mentors for Foster Care youth through a non-profit call for an organization that caters to Homeless and Runaway youth of San Diego County and a grad student of Social Work at USC. Kendrick has also spent two performing seasons, writing and performing with the San Diego based dance troupe, Eveoke, with the productions of ‘Lyrics, Beats, and Bricks’ and ‘Voices’. He published a book of poetry entitled, “The Journey Notwithstanding: Life, Love and Lessons Learnt.”

Kendrick is also a member Collective Purpose. A group of poets and community activist whose passion is centered on connecting and strengthening the community through providing opportunities for people to engage in artistic expression. Their hope is for people to gain an appreciation and understanding of the arts not just entertainment, but as a movement that has the power to effect, heal and transform our community. Along with close associates, he created and co-produces one of the most popular spoken word/poetry venue in San Diego, ELEVATED!!! For 6 years they have provided a space for up and coming artists, new writers, and community activists to share their words and art, as well as bringing known poets to San Diego.

Contact
Manager: Kendrick Dial
619-248-6982
lyricalgroove@gmail.com