There are 1,013,913 words in the English language. And it's rumored that the Eskimo have over 50 words for snow. It's easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of words. Add that to the ever growing number of insults and expletives creeping their way into our vocabulary (seriously, did 'f- bomb' really need to be added to Webster's?) it's easy to forget that words were put here to connect us through communication, to make us feel good about ourselves. Thus, the motivation for 4-Star to delve in to some of Chicago's urban spoken words joints. Is your spirit thirsty for tantalizing tidbits and testimony dripping ever so temperate from these floacists tongues? (Alliteration all up in this piece!!!) The look no further than Soul Restoration.
205 East 75th Street
Chicago, IL 60619
Contrary to popular belief Love Jones, which was filmed over 15 years ago in our home town, was not the beginning and end of spoken word in Chicago. Spoken word has been alive and well and the artists which sustain these events with a strong network would testify to how the genre is thriving. No one could be a more perfect testament of this ideal than wordsmith and rhyme spitter, Deana Dean. Ms. Dean and fellow word slammer, Sharon Celeste, have paved the way for spoken word to make a reemergence as a sort of rebirth of cool for our city.
I, Vonnie Coleman, on behalf of 4-Star Explorer got a chance to ask the acclaimed Deana Dean a few questions about her journey through words.
4-Star: When did you first know you were a poet?
DD: I’ve always loved poetry. When I was in the 7th and 8th grade my teacher Solomon Bennett had us memorize poems and perform them every Friday. That’s when I fell in love with writing and words.
4-Star: How long have you been doing spoken word?
DD: I’ve been performing poetry for about 11 years.
4-Star: What’s one of your best moments in spoken word or poetry in general?
DD: A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to headline with Sonia Sanchez and Nikki Giovanni in 2 separate events. That alone is a poet’s dream. It got better about a year later when my buddy Khari called and said, “Do you want to go to dinner with Mama Sonia?” I’m like, “Hell yeah!”
While we were driving to meet her he said, “Do you think that she’ll remember you?” Me, “Well she meets a lot of people/poets I doubt it but I certainly hope so.” As soon as she walked up she smiled and said “Little sister Deana Dean.” Yeah that was dope!
4-Star: What's some of the history of the Soul Restoration Event?
DD: Celeste and I have been performing together for years and we’ve had a great relationship with Soul Vegetarian. We both felt the scene was missing an element. The open mics have turned into shows, which in itself is a fabulous evolution. However the novice poet still needs somewhere to learn, grow and build. The experienced poet still needs somewhere to exercise his/her lyrical muscles and commune with other poets. When we were presented with the opportunity to start a poetry set we decided to supply that need.
4-Star: What makes Soul Restoration different from other events in the city?
DD: Soul Restoration is old school. It’s reminiscent of the coffee houses and cafes where poetry was performed when it was still underground. No DJ, no band, no pressure. Just us, our voices and our souls. So many people tell us that Soul Restoration really does restore their souls and that has always been a goal of ours. Likewise, Celeste and I have amazing symmetry. We genuinely enjoy each other’s company. Coming to Soul Restoration is like just kicking it with two chicks who just happen to be kind of hilarious.
4-Star: Where would you like to see Soul Restoration going in the future?
DD: More mentoring, featured events and writing assignments. We want to continue to be a place where poets and patrons call their poetic home.
4-Star's sporadic photographer, Chris Thompson, and I set out to check out the event under the tip of what unlikely source but my dad, Neal Coleman. The space was a little bare bones but once Deana Dean sashayed into the space it was if color splash and spluttered onto the walls. I wasn't sure how she would seem in person seeing as a heavy amount of our communication was held over social media. All doubts were broken as she shattered my images of the "so-serious" artist and I must say she is so "southside" if that makes any sense. She just came off as one of the girls you'd kick it with off the block.
The event itself was a bit light in attendance that evening but the actual and metaphorical show went on. The style of the show was that of the classics boasting the mantra no music, no djs just voices. And don't you for a very second wonder if you'll be entertained. During the performances my mouth was held at a steady drop after hearing what some of these artists put together. Ms. Dean kicked off the event but some of the other poets in attendance were Sharon Celeste, Most Verses, and the clever young word slinger appropriately named Adverb (the English teacher in me swooned) delivered as well. Now for the good and bad news.
Bad news, is that Soul Restoration is taking a month-long break in the guise of trying to rework and reboot the show all in the hopes of creating a great show for artist and audience alike.
Good news...Soul Restoration will be back in action on November 1st! Until then, you could always support our future lyricist by coming out to events put on by The Ark of St. Sabina's L.Y.R.I.C. (Let Your Rhymes Inspire Creativity). And Deana Dean is a woman of many hats and frequents many lounges in the Chicagoland area that host various spoken word events. Whatever you do, if you're looking to get tapped into the artsy mystique of smokey coffeehouses I suggest you contact Deana Dean. Because you too want to live in a city where it's possible to ride around on a Vespa with someone as hot as Larenz Tate, admit it!
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