‘Voices’ Heard from The Hill

What started as a small gathering between friends to freestyle and share ideas three years ago has turned into a family of 35 artists, writers and poets.

In light of National Poetry Month, Voices is practicing a 30/30 exercise. For each day of the month, members write a different poem.

“We openly welcome those who have a love for the art of spoken word,” McQuisha Smith, founder of the group, said. “Some of our members prefer to write, others chooses to perform. We are here to support our members and uplift through the power of words.”

Voices categorizes itself as a collective body of modern-day American griots-members of a class of traveling poets, musicians, and storytellers from West Africa. The group has traveled to Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale and Tampa to perform.

“I was once in Wal-mart and heard someone shout ‘Voices.’ Without a second thought, I exclaimed ‘Heard,'” Keila Dumas, vice president of Voices, said. “That was symbolic to me because it made it clear that when you see me, you can feel like you are a part of something…a family. There has never been a time that I didn’t respond to a Voices greet.”

The support they are gathering from the Tallahassee community continues to flourish as they perform wherever the opportunity presents itself. There is a family bond that is shared among the group, as well as a bond with their supporters.

“We all laugh together, we all cry together,” Kezia Gilyard, a member of the group, said. “I can remember the first time I was interested in joining Voices. McQuisha was so passionate about uplifting through spoken word, I gravitated to her positive energy. It felt reassuring to know that I had a voice, whether I was a performer or a spectator.”

Voices has been heard since Oct. 2, 2009 when it was founded on FAMU’s campus. Since then, members have performed in front of Makayla Davis of BET and Ntozake Shange, author of “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf.”

The past eight months have been extremely progressive for the group. The group has recently released an album titled “Sleepless Nights: Vol. 1.”

In addition to the album, they have performed at over 40 events in the Tallahassee area and been invited by organizations such as Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity to open up events with the sounds of spoken word.

They have also been invited to perform at the Atlanta Southern Fried poetry slam in June.

Although they have an intense focus on spreading positivity through performances, they also play an active role in the community.

Each Monday at 5:30 p.m., they have a mentoring program called Hip- Hop Expressions at the Palmer Monroe community center. The program is centered on teaching the youth how to positively express themselves through words.

“It’s important to get back to the basics,” Smith said. “Writing is an extremely important form of expression. That’s what this month is about: polishing our craft and committing ourselves to the art of poetry. Our commitment will not end once the month is over. There is much more to come from