Written and interviewed by Glo(w)
Open mics are like church. You may not find a direct savior, but you will definitely feel God. Let’s not venture too deep into theological banter. After all, each perspective is valid, each truth is purposeful. Still, open mics are like church. People congregate and give testimonies, opening the most sacred parts of themselves to release. Sacrificial lambs lay open and vulnerable to the masses that have gathered. As each syllable escapes lips, every person that is present can feel the connectivity. And where there is connectivity, there is God.
To sit in a room filled with kindred spirits and share in the ritual of recounting stories, there is power. It can’t be seen, but it’s felt. Whether you call this unique force a vibe or the Holy Spirit, there is no doubt that it exists. As each person steps to the mic and offers a bit of their being, we are reminded that no one is ever truly alone during this human experience. No matter the subject, most people can feel a sense of remembering as they listen to another perspective.
Without becoming a satirical pastor of sorts, Corey Black has managed to create a safe space for people to gather and connect. Through his monthly open mic, Poetic Justice, Corey Black has turned a typically marginalized affair into a free for all. Poets, artists, singers, and rappers come in many a form as made evident by the variety of characters found here. Each artist is welcomed. Whether they are caught in the grips of self-doubt before sharing isn’t clear. That’s the beauty of swapping tales that typically remain untold. We are reminded that each experience has value, each story a lesson, each word has immense meaning. Through these events, it’s proven that poetry is words woven together like skillful patchwork. When presenting your truth, we all become proficient seamstresses. There is no room for self-doubt when your testimony can save a life.
Get to know more about Corey Black below.
For the record, what mediums of art do you partake in?
I'm really versatile, so it just depend on my mood. I love writing poetry and performance arts. I do that mostly all day every day. I also do screen printing and graphic design. Honestly, in my opinion everything that anyone loves to do is a medium. Cooking is art. Driving is art. Whatever your passion is could be considered art.
How long have you been creating? What inspired you to use your creativity?
I've been creating since I was sitting at the kitchen table and trying to draw Tony The Tiger when I was a kid. My mother bought me an easel and work bench when I was in 2nd grade. I've always been able to express myself through art for as far back as I can remember.
What is your creative process like?
Very organic. I usually will get inspired by a memory or an image and wonder things like, "what would that picture say if it could talk?" or "what words would that melody use?" I typically will write myself little notes and something will spark the same idea later, and I'll find a connection and will "piece" them together. I guess that's why I call my poems Pieces.
What have you learned about yourself through the creative process?
That I'm a perfectionist. I find myself stressing out if something isn't exactly the way I see it in my mind. It drives me crazy, but it also pushes me to do my best.
What is the most important lesson or factor you want people to get from your art?
Freedom. Be who you are and who you want to be and accept the possibility that you can do anything. I want folks to understand that we are limitless and I really hope that translates through my work. I feel like if I have an idea, and I can execute it and make it tangible, then all of us can.
You have become the host of possibly the most well-known open mic in St. Louis (for this generation at least). Do you think it’s important for creatives to share their work?
Absolutely. I am under the impression that creativity is of The Creator. So if anyone is able to create, and they don't share that with the world, then that's selfish. If The Creator was to say, "Yeah, I just made this really dope Sun, but I'm not gonna let anyone see it ever," life wouldn't be able to exist. We create light when we create art, and it's imperative that we shine, so that folks that may not know can see that The Creator lives in us all.
Do you think its important for creative to collaborate? Do you think it’s important for other artists to congregate and work together?
Definitely. There is safety in numbers. I've literally been working with some of the same artists for the past 8 years as well as new artists. You never know where inspiration will come from and if you want to stay fresh and stay new, then you need new conversations, new dialogues, new ideas. What better way to do that than by working with new people? It's a win.
What is the relationship between creating and mental health to you (if any)?
It's therapy for me. I have PTSD and I'm manic depressive, so the balance and escape I find through poetry is better than any counselor or drug.
Why do you think people shy away from talking about their mental health?
I think it's because of the stigma that's associated with mental health. Like, it's cool to tell someone you have a fever, but it's not cool to tell someone you can't mute the voices in your head. Most people don't want the judgement so they just keep it bottled in.
Why do you think people shy away from talking about their creative endeavors?
That's all fear. Fear of disappointments as well as fear of not getting the support one imagines they deserve. I used to have delusions of grandeur until I got humbled and realized that I needed to put in the work to get to where I wanted to be. There are no shortcuts. You can only get out of this what you put into it. Period. Most people are afraid of putting in the work and making those sacrifices.
What’s one unwavering belief you have?
If you build it, they will come.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Know your worth. It's cliche, but it's everything to me. People will use you if you let them. There have been times when people would ask me to perform and I would give them a quote and they would say it's too much. They would literally tell me that I am charging too much for something that is coming from out of my soul. I'm charging too much for something that is priceless. When I started hearing that response, that's when I had to check myself and realize that I wasn't charging too much, they just never saw my potential.
How do you think the creating process would be different if money wasn’t a factor?
If money is a factor while your creating, it's probably gonna fail. A lot of times I just try to come up with dope stuff just for the sake of flexing and being like, "yeah I made that". What I've noticed is all of the things that I've made that have been successful came from a place of me not worrying about money. Even to be in a position where you can just create to create, and you aren't worried about if it will put food in your stomach, it's gonna be completely different than what someone who is creating because they are starving and need to pay bills.
When can we expect a project to be released?
Working on a project with Michael Franco and it should be out early 2017. We are calling it "Black Magic".