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Focus is on art and activism in two days of "Freedom Forward" workshops and performances.

Memphis, Tennessee, Aug. 08, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The National Civil Rights Museum (NCRM) will host an award-winning lineup of spoken word artists at its Drop the Mic Poetry Slam and Poetry Symposium on August 17 - 18. Both events are free and open to the public and are designed to stimulate youth participation in modern community dialogue and grassroots activism centered on the social justice legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

As Dr. King once said, “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed.” This year’s Drop the Mic events are centered around the theme “Freedom Forward”and challenges artists to go beyond identifying issues, but to use their gifts to enlighten, educate and inspire the audience to move. The goal is to have participants connect with other artists while exploring the reward that self-expression brings in determining one’s self-worth, examining relevant issues and developing solutions individually and collectively.  

“We’re bringing(art)ivistsfrom all over the country who have used their platforms for activism through art to enlighten, engage and motivate awareness, understanding and action around issues impacting families, individuals and our communities,” said Faith Morris, Chief Marketing & External Affairs Officer, National Civil Rights Museum. “Through their powerful words and performances, they stir up anger, sadness, joy, concern – emotions that leave you wanting to, needing to reflect on your own circumstances or those around you. It’s truly something to see and experience.”

This year’s Drop the Mic Slam and Symposium will feature appearances by J. Ivy, the Chicago-based poet, actor and activist, whorose to fame after appearing on Russell Simmons’ HBO Def Poetry.  He was featured on a classic hit with Jay-Z and Kanye, shared the stage with Common, Jill Scott, Deepak Chopra, Lauryn Hill, Mos Def and Erykah Badu, and collaborated with John Legend, Marsha Ambrosia and Slum Village.  He has since appeared in, or has been the voice of, corporate and TV network promotions including productions for BET, ESPN and NBC.  In addition, J. Ivy has a passion for healing the community through his Dear Father Letterscampaign where he encourages children and adults to confront the pain of growing up without a father and to embrace the forgiving catharsis that writing offers to prevent a generational cycle of hurt and brokenness. 

A MasterClass with Ed Mabreywill kick off the Drop the Mic events during the Symposium.  Emmy-winner and four-time Individual World Poetry Slam Champion, Mabrey is returning to the symposium to lead the MasterClass entitled the “Fine Art of Being an Artist,” and a workshop on what it takes to become a full-time writer/artist. With over 20 years of teaching experience, he has performed at over 200 schools from K-12 to universities around the country.Through reflection of his career, Mabrey will share the steps he took to achieve his career goals. He will also perform at the Slam for the third year.

In addition, symposium features workshops led by notable artists such as Bethsheba “Queen Sheba” Rem, Jasmine Mans, Jonathan “Samuel Eddie” Perkins, and Mackenzie Berry.  Workshops are constructed along four tracks – Activism, Youth, Technique, and Business – and encompass a comprehensive range of topics including ways to use art to spark conversation and action in underrepresented communities, understanding technique and various forms of poetry, and how to build a brand and generate revenue.  The workshops are open to anyone who is serious about enhancing their creativity and engagement as a poet, spoken word artist or community activist. 

The Symposium will also include a Panel Discussion that will allow attendees to connect with artists about turning an art form into a mechanism for action.  J. Ivy’s special keynote address leads into the Symposium’s final session, the Open Mic, which will include a variety of performances from the day’s participants - the pros andthe amateurs.  The Symposium will take place on Friday, August 17 at 4:00pm at the National Civil Rights Museum. Registration,onlineor onsite starting at 3:00pm, is strongly encouraged.

The Drop the Mic Poetry Slam is a showcase of young artists presenting their original poems based on the “Freedom Forward”theme.  Participants, ranging in age from 14 to 35, were selected from a pool of applicants and will compete for first, second and third place in three age categories (14-17, 18-25, and 26-35) before a panel of judges for cash prizes up to $1,500. There is an (Art)ivist Marketplacefor guests to engage with featured artists to purchase books and merchandise related to their art.

The Slam’s host is Queen Sheba, aspoken word artist, activist, motivational speaker, teacher, author, comedian, playwright and founder of Poetry vs. Hip-Hop, a nationally-touring stage show. She has two books, six albums, two of which were Grammy-nominated in the Spoken Word category, and she is a two-time NAACP Image Award Nominee. With a master’s degree in poetry from Queens University, she has conducted performances and workshops at over 200 colleges and universities nationally and abroad.  She tours internationally in her one-woman comedy show, My Thoughts Out Loud. 

Other featured performers at the slam include classically-trained poet and workshop facilitator, Jasmine Mans, along with Memphian and 2017 Drop the Mic Poetry Slam ChampionCarin “Writeous Soul” Malone, and Nashville-based spoken word trio, Writers’ Block.  The Poetry Slam is Saturday, August 18, at 4:00pm at the Paradise Entertainment Center.  Doors open at 3:00pm for general seating. RSVP at civilrightsmuseum.org.

Both events are free and open to the public.  Attendees are encouraged to share comments and photos on social media using the hashtags #NCRMDropTheMicand #FreedomForward.  For more information about the Drop the Mic Poetry Slam and Symposium, visit civilrightsmuseum.org.

Connie Dyson
National Civil Rights Museum

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