Dec 072011
Authors: Ricki Watkins

We encounter words every day. Most of these words are just meaningless jargon, but sometimes we hear and see words that are life-changing, that spark us to act, and that evoke emotions hidden deep in our hearts.

For Kimberly Ford, a Colorado State University senior, the power of words have inspired her love and interest in spoken-word poetry.

“Sharing our stories can be a powerful tool for building awareness and comeUNITY,” she said. “I love doing spoken-word poetry because it is a form of activism I have seen open hearts that have been carrying the weight of prejudice, pain and mistreatment.”

Spoken-word poetry is very similar to slam poetry except it does not have a competitive basis like slam poetry does. In both cases, a poet reads aloud, acts out performs their piece to an audience.

“[Spoken-word poetry] is someone’s self-expression,” Ford said. “One could almost think of it as a solo acting performance, except instead of ‘putting on’ a character the person is speaking about themselves and/or personal reflection or experience.”

In the beginning

Ford, 22, was first exposed to spoken-word poetry in high school when her teacher played parts of a “Def Jam Poetry” DVD to the class. One of the poets featured was Vanessa Hidary, who’s piece “Culture Bandit” instantly caught Ford’s attention.

“I ended up taking the DVD home and playing the piece over and over because I felt like I had never related so much to words performed on a stage,” Ford said. “I knew I wanted to be able to spark similar feelings in others as Vanessa Hidary did to me.”

College is where Ford really began to get involved in spoken-word poetry. While at CSU, she has performed her pieces at several events, such as the annual Cesar Chavez celebration at CSU and Mama’s Hip-Hop Kitchen in New York City.

Ford has also performed some of her pieces to Assistant Professor Maricela DeMirjyn’s Latina/o Creative Expressions class. As Ford’s teacher, DeMirjyn was exposed to her work at other events and asked Ford to perform during the course’s poetry and spoken-word unit.
“I think that Kim is a gifted poet and uses her talent to strengthen our communities by bringing awareness to her audience members,” DeMirjyn said.

Ford, like most spoken-word poets, draws on personal experiences and opinions for inspiration. Ford’s poems typically revolve around race and ethnicity, capitalism, empowerment and social justice.

Finding her voice

“Life. What I have seen, my personal ignorance, the pain of events, the beauty of life and all the observations I have in it,” Ford said.

Ford also draws inspiration and motivation from her self-appointed stage name: InVinity. The basis of the title is infinity, which Ford said is “a constant reminder for me to stay committed to social justice and also meant to me personally to forever gr-Oh! and evolve.” The ‘V’ represents ‘Validity in Voice,’ Ford said.

“There were many times in my life I doubted myself and if my story or life mattered, the ‘V’ is a reminder to myself, and hopefully to others, that our voice is valid and our story means something,” she said.

Brooke Martinez, a senior ethnic studies and women studies major, has seen and heard many of Ford’s performances and participates in some of the same social activist organizations at CSU that Ford does.

“Kimberly is one of the most strong-willed and courageous individuals
I know,” Martinez said. “Her words are used to express her many identities, and a lot of the time people can relate to it in one way or another. Her poetry and soul are beautiful.”

Looking forward

Ford said she plans on continuing to write and perform her spoken-word poetry.
“Everything I am doing now is what I hope to do with it —sharing, building, dreaming with it,” she said. “Of course, I would like to produce a book at one point and maybe even produce a video of poetry.”

Though there is no organization at CSU specifically for spoken-word poetry, Ford encourages those that are interested to just start writing and find others who share that same interest.

Ford also encourages people to attend spoken-word or slam poetry events “for the appreciation of art, healing through words, [and as] a builder of community.”

Words can translate into change. Something spoken-word poets, like Ford, are striving to do.

“I identify as an artivist, someone who combines art and activism to create change,” she said.

Maybe deep within the meaningless jargon of the typical day, we can find words both in the outside world and inside our souls that inspire us to take action against the injustices of our time.

 Posted by at 8:27 am

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