|The spoken word has the capacity to empower or totally dissolve a listener. The old saying "sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me," might have sometimes proven to be a useful comeback long ago, but we all know that it was far from the truth and many of us still have the emotional scars to prove it.|
Collect Voices (Voices), a three-woman sisterhood of local poets, has made it their mission to use the power of the spoken word to inspire, heal, motivate and educate their listeners.
Founded by J. Joy Alford six years ago, this group consisting of Alford, Billye Okera and Dianne Beverly-Patterson, met while working for the same company. Despite the fact that many co-worker relationships are stressed due to both inside and outside pressures, these three ladies took their working relationship to a whole other level. They found a common goal and used it to give something positive back to the community. Voices serves up poetry that not only uplifts but also pays tribute to the beauty of the African-American culture.
Their premiere event was held at the House of Ruth (a refuge for battered women), more than five years ago, and this has remained a significant point in this now well establish group of women. "For me poetry is a healing channel," stated Alford. This early experience set the tone for Voices as they continue to use the power of poetry to touch audiences through such venues as workshops, church, school and other community events. Voices has chosen poetry as their line of communication mainly because of its ability to reach people. Alford, who has explained that she has experienced spiritual enlightenment as a performing poet said, "It is not solely for lifting up poetry as much as it is for sharing a message. As much as there is a need to express the written word, as much as there is a need to encourage young people to read, poetry is significant on so many levels. Often we find that our messages are universal."
Although Voices reaches so many with their message, they too are affected in the process of sharing. "It's sort of an electric thing, working with three different women who have three different personalities and three different points of views and yet our poetry still comes together," said Billye Okera.
As with anything good, healthy and positive, Voices has grown tremendously over the last six years expanding their performances to include places such as the South African Embassy, the National Black Family Reunion and the Lincoln Theatre. Dianne Beverly-Patterson delights in what being a member of Collective Voices has meant to her. "Opportunities as a member of Collective Voices have enlightened my creativity in writing and presenting poetry and has also enhanced my leadership skills. All that I do is by the grace of God," she said. Patterson embraces the performances that have taken Voices not only to some of the most notable spots right here in the metropolitan area but in other parts of the world as well. Patterson's list of most memorable performances include: The Lewisham Theater, in Brixton, London as well as the National Museum of African Art, and others where this dynamic sisterhood of three poets closed many of their performances to standing ovations.
Collective Voices is looking forward to a New Year of uplifting the community through the power of their poetry. You can experience the poetry of this charismatic female trio on Saturday, Jan. 13th at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library from 3-5:30 p.m. as they host "Poetry Extravaganza 2001," their fifth year "gala" literary tribute to the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This year's gala will feature E. Ethelbert Miller, Denise Johnson, Grandma Slam, Kwame Alexander, Jason & Damon Keene and Donna Curtis and the Jazz Descendants. This event is free and open to the public. Call 202-486-0111 for more information.