Oklahoma City-based poet and hip-hop artist Gregory II had never hosted an event of any kind before July 29 last year. He had no idea how many people would show up to his first Poetry and Chill event and was surprised when a crowd of more than 60 gathered for the showcase.
“I was like, ‘I don’t even know any of these people,’” he said.
That success has pushed Gregory to keep moving forward with the free poetry and music showcase event. The first three Poetry and Chill events were held at The New Black Wall Street Marketplace on the city’s northeast side, but its rapidly growing popularity sparked a move three minutes down NE 23rd Street to the larger venue Bistro 46 Restaurant & Grille.
Poetry and Chill will hold its first event of 2018 at 8:30 p.m. Feb. 10 inside the restaurant and performance venue, 2501 NE 23rd St. Gregory II hosts the event alongside Better Black News founder Jillian Whitaker. Skyy Webster, maS.T.A.Rpeace, GlenJamin and Anthony Crawford are scheduled to perform poetry. Live music will be provided by Spunk Adams. Additional special guests will also perform.
“I’m trying to show Oklahoma that there is a lot of talent here and they can come and see it for free,” Gregory II said.
While the event is held in a historically black part of the city, the poet wants everyone to come and enjoy the spoken word and music at no charge.
“I want everybody — every race and culture — to come to this so they can see that it’s all one here,” he said.
Gregory II was born in Oklahoma City and has been writing poetry and rap lyrics since he was a child. He moved to Los Angeles for a few years after high school to study film and experience life in a new city.
While living on the West Coast, he saw several large events dedicated to poetry and R&B music — events unlike those that existed in OKC. When he moved back to his hometown, he wanted to bring something like that back with him.
Nielah Blaylock is a friend of Gregory and a member of Poetry and Chill’s volunteer staff. She said the event always features a positive atmosphere.
“When you go to Poetry and Chill, you feel at home,” Blaylock said. “The ambiance is nice and the people — everyone is just rooting each other on.”
Gregory said he was surprised so many people like Blaylock committed themselves to helping at the event. Without a staff of volunteers wearing their popular Poetry and Chill shirts (which are sold at the event), he thinks the showcase would not have taken off like it did.
“I was more surprised by the people who helped me than the people who showed up,” he said. “The people who helped me made it more appealing when the people showed up.”
The popularity of Poetry and Chill showed Gregory that OKC supports events as long as they are of high quality. As the showcase builds a larger following, Gregory has come across more opportunities for expansion. High schools have approached him to host Poetry and Chill events, and the town of Geronimo in Comanche County has asked about bringing an event there.
Gregory said part of the appeal for Poetry and Chill is that it highlights a frequently overlooked art form. Through Poetry and Chill, the audience can gain a better understanding of what spoken word is and the relationship between poetry and music.
“It’s more like a learning experience, too,” he said. “Where does poetry come from? What does it mean?”
Poetry and Chill OKC
8:30 p.m.-midnight Feb. 10
Bistro 46 Restaurant & Grille
2501 NE 23rd St.
Print headline: Poetic justice; Poetry and Chill brings audiences spoken word, music and unity with no Netflix required.