Bookshop hosts nightclub alternative

The smell of incense filled the dimly lit gallery of Amen Ra’s Bookstore Wednesday night, as college students and music lovers participated in an evening of jazz, poetry and art.

Jan. 24 marked the reemergence of The Underground Railroad, a weekly event designed to provide the Tallahassee community with a positive alternative to nightclubs.

“The Underground Railroad is something positive for people to do,” said Lance Powlis, coordinator of The Underground Railroad. “It’s a place for people to grow and musicians to jam.”Powlis, a former student at the University, originally introduced the concept to the public in June 2006.

“We try to create a free flowing atmosphere where people can blossom,” Powlis said. “We have poetry, music, art. People can dance and socialize. Anything goes.”

Coordinators said the concept of leading people from ignorance into reality and “taking the blindfold off” is the reason they chose the name of this artistically and intellectually stimulating event.

This week, audience members enjoyed poetry, live art and a mixture of neo-soul and R&B. The main event, however, was the numerous live performances by the jazz band, True Essence.

“I loved the guy on the saxophone,” said Deseanette McDonald, 21, a sophomore criminal justice student from Spartanburg, S.C. “All the musicians were really good, but I loved the saxophone.”

Kimi Walker, 22, a senior psychology student from Indianapolis, said, “I liked their renditions of popular songs.”

While most people gave praise to True Essence for keeping the evening entertaining and relaxing, coordinators said it was the combined efforts of all those involved that made the event an overall success.

With an open-mic policy in effect, poets, singers and musicians from all over Tallahassee graced the stage to showcase their talents to a well-receptive audience.

“That’s what this is all about,” Powlis said. “This is a place where people can express themselves freely, and it’s all love.”Students said The Underground Railroad is something more students should attend to expand their horizons.

“I’m glad to see that there is finally a calm, cool and collective setting for jazz – live music at that,” said Keenan Williams, a junior business administration student from Philadelphia. “This event brings an element of maturity. It’s something different, and I hope it draws a wider crowd from here on out.”

Both audience members and performers said they expect this event to grow tremendously and gain popularity over time. While Powlis was pleased with the turnout, he said there are certain elements of the event that he and others are striving to improve.

“The outcome was cool,” Powlis said. “There were definitely a lot of musicians, and we had a good turn out. In the future, I want to reach out to a younger crowd.”

The Underground Railroad experience will take place at Amen Ra’s bookstore each and every Wednesday night. For more information about The Underground Railroad, log on to