Ald. Deborah Graham (29th) speaks to the youth about her love for poetry. (Nicholas Samuel/Contributor)


Spectators applauded as Johnetta Anderson, 25, performed her poetry piece “Redemption” at a poetry jam held last Sunday, Jan. 13, at Sankofa Cultural Center, 5820 W. Chicago Avenue.

The jam featured conscience poetry from a variety of artists and focused on fighting for justice for African Americans.

“If they take me out, if they take me out. Don’t do no marching for me, don’t do no marching for me,” Anderson said as she recited her poem. “I say an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”

Anderson, also known by her stage name Awthentik, hosted last Sunday’s event. 

“Lets create a platform for youth arts and see how they can turn their art into activism,” Anderson said.

The jam was organized by the West Side Organization 2.0 and was part of a three-day youth summit titled “Black Lives Matter.”

Anderson, 25 of Austin, is currently a junior at Chicago State University majoring in Technical Writing and is a national spoken word artist.

She’s also a member of the West Side Organization 2.0, which she said is composed of politicians, development leaders and youth advocates.

“We really want to hear from the people. That’s why we [invited] politicians here,” said James Simon, member of WSO 2.0.

Ald. Deborah Graham (29th) was in attendance at the jam and spoke to the crowd about her love for poetry and the importance of young people getting involved in politics.

“Black lives do matter. I wanted to come by and hear the thoughts of individuals who will be on the open mic,” Graham said before the jam. “I wanted to hear their thoughts on the Ferguson case [Mike Brown death] and the New York case [Eric Garner death]. I want to be connected to the young people.”

Maurice Robinson, member of WSO 2.0 and former candidate for 29th ward alderman, said the theme for the organization is not just about the deaths of Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin and Oscar Grant, among others. 

“There are people who don’t get that publicity. What about those people that are doing something positive,” Robinson said. “We speak life.”

Robinson dropped out of the race for 29th ward Alderman for personal reasons and said the journey was a great learning experience.

He added that there is a slim difference between a politician and an artist.

“If you don’t embody the people as a politician, you’re phony at the end of the day,” Robinson said.

CONTACT: nicholas.samuel@loop.column.edu