On Thursday November 15th, the Chipped Cup held its first open mic evening. If I’d known the scope of neighborhood talent ready to jump in front of a mic, I might have hesitated before offering my short prose reading.
The first performer was an 11-year-old girl called Sirena. She played guitar and sang one of her own compositions about the beauty of her neighborhood in Harlem. Sirena has a soulful soprano voice that made me think a little of Kate Bush. Unsurprisingly, Adele’s songwriter is interested in Sirena. Her music brought tears to my eyes, reminding me of the purity of the human spirit.
It also reminded me that I would have to follow this act with my story about men with facial hair. As I walked toward the mic, I wondered if I could just walk right past it and out the door. But I’ve embarrassed myself often enough to know that it’s usually over in a few minutes. And then the memory stays with me for the rest of my life.
But the Chipped Cup audience listened attentively to my story, even when I fumbled with a mic in one hand and a sheet of paper in the other. A few people even told me they liked it afterwards.
Sitting next to me was Mark Blackman, director of Welcome to Harlem the Movie.
“That was good,” he said. With perfect timing, he followed this by saying, “This is the most patient audience ever.” Or maybe he said "best crowd."
There followed musicians, poets, another reader of prose, and several stand up comedians. Patricia, one of the barristas who is also an MFA student at CCNY, read a poem, like a piece of music, to great applause.
I felt privileged to be able to view such a lot of talent, for free and just down the road from where I live.
Joe Boover, singing "Low Budget Fairytale"
Singer-songwriter, Joe Boover, performed two humorous and touching songs. Mark Blackman, accompanied by barrista Kerrianne on guitar, did some comedy and sang a song called, “Columbia f@#$ed a dog.” Mark clearly doesn’t like the way Columbia is moving into the neighborhood. The room was cracking up with laughter.
“This is the high point of the evening,” my friend said, after loudly interrupting Mark several times. "Sometimes we need to laugh."
The interruptions didn’t disturb Mark and I began to understand how he really loves Harlem, and how I’d better finish my review of his movie.
The first Chipped Cup Open Mic was organized by baristas Kerianne and Mary Jane. Open Mic’s will be held every third Thursday of the month at 7pm. All are welcome.