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Poets’ work fights the mainstream

Brenna von den Benken
Staff Writer

In honor of the Ceasar Chavez and “Gaypril” celebrations the Scripps College Queer Straight Alliance had the group Climbing PoeTree perform on April 8 in the Score Living Room.

With roots in Haiti and Colombia, Climbing PoeTree shared their revolutionary spoken word pieces, as well as excerpts from their multimedia show “Hurricane Season: the Hidden Messages in Water”.

The show connects the issues that surfaced in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to the unnatural disasters experienced by disfranchised communities worldwide.

“I’ve never experienced this type of art,” attendee Alexandra Castillo said. “It just goes to show how activism can be expressed in ways unimaginable to most people and how every effort is valid.”

Climbing PoeTree is the combined force of soul-sisters Garcia and Penniman; two creative visionaries with a hip-hop flare on a mission to infiltrate public schools, prisons, and entire communities in an effort to challenge mainstream ideals, violence and media misrepresentation.

“Creativity is the antidote for violence and destruction. Art is our most human expression, a tool to rebuild our communities, and a weapon to win this struggle for universal liberation,” Alixa Garcia said.

Garcia and Penniman reside in Brooklyn and trek around the world on a mission to overcome destruction with creativity.

As a spiritual duo, Climbing PoeTree has sharpened their art as a tool for popular education, community organizing and personal transformation.

Understanding creativity as the antidote to destruction, Climbing PoeTree uses their art to expose injustice, heal from violence and make a better future visible, immediate and irresistible.

In seven independent tours, Climbing PoeTree has rocked about 600 mics and counting. This includes places from Oakland to Atlanta and South Africa to Cuba.

Climbing PoeTree has had artists such as Erykah Badu, Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni, Angela Davis, Alicia Keys, Danny Glover, Jessica Care Moore, the Last Poets and Dead Prez perform in their group.

The group has led workshops in institutions like Cornell University and Riker’s Island.

They have painted murals on walls from the Bronx, to Cuba to Jamaica.

“Their creativity is remarkable and significantly effective,” attendee Jazmin Guevara said.

Brenna von den Benken can be reached at brenna.vondenbenken@laverne.edu.

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