While many students barbecued, swam and hung out with friends on Labor Day, the BlackTalk Poetry troupe kicked off their 12th annual Black on Black Rhyme anniversary week. The organization chose to have a cookout as its week’s opener Sunday. Events included a church service, karaoke and an open mic night.
What is now an association with dozens of active participants started in 1993 in the living room of Lake Hamilton, Fla. native Keith Rodgers’ apartment.
Described as a hustler and innovator by his closest colleagues, Rodgers is credited for the birth of a social movement.
What started as a small weekly social called “Poetic drive-by” grew into a national franchise now taking the south by storm. The socials marked one of the first places of refuge in Tallahassee for poets looking to release emotions and suppressed talents.
The audience would soon grow too big for Rodgers’ apartment, sparking the creation of the Black on Black Rhyme showcase every Friday night at Amen -Ra’s café.
Rodgers said with the continual growing numbers in participants, the future for Black on Black Rhyme looks promising.
“We’re working on starting a television show and were currently working on the release of our magazine, BOB TYMES,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers’ creation is now being franchised statewide in Tampa, and has even branched nationally in Atlanta.
Rodgers said he is not only proud of the progress his creation has made, but of the growth the artist and his support team has made internally as well.
“I see the positive changes in views and lifestyles with everyone involved, and it makes me happy to know Black on Black Rhyme has played a role in that,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers isn’t the only one who has noticed the difference BOBR has made. Amen Ra’s owner and Florida A&M psychology professor, Dana Dennard, Ph.D, said watching the growth with in the entertainers involved in BOBR has been a personal pleasure of his.
“I have watched some of the older entertainers refine their craft, and pass their knowledge on to newcomers,” Dennard said. “Students are now using the methods they have learned from Black on Black Rhyme, to teach others.”
Even students as young as 13 are learning ways to express themselves through art, thanks to the impact BOBR has made since it’s arrival to Amen Ra’s in 2003.
Leon High School student and son of Amen Ra’s owner, Malek Dennard, 13, is no stranger to Black on Black Rhyme’s open mic night, where he proves that talent has no age requirement.
Malek said it’s the entertainment aspect that attracts him the most.
“Black on Black Rhyme has evolved into more than just poetry,” Malek said. “It now includes all aspects of entertainment like singing and dancing, which not only attracts myself but bigger crowds as well.”
Dennard said Black on Black Rhyme has brought in a good exchange of people, creating a bigger and diverse clientele for the venue, and does not regret his decision to allow the showcasing of BOBR.
“Keith’s creation is a vehicle consistent with our overall objective, which is to provide a positive place were people can speak out, get inspired and have a sense of camaraderie,” Dennard said.
Although the scheduled week of BOBR events are coming to a close, there is still some time to enjoy what’s left of it. Tonight the troupe is hosting a game night with a 100 dollar scrabble tournament, and the weeks closer will be a poetry slam Saturday night, appropriately titled “Two piece and a side,” where two poets will battle it out for a $750 prize.