JP CENTER—Former National Poetry Slam Individual Championship winner Regie Gibson will be the featured poet at the premiere of a new Latin jazz concert and poetry series, “Last Fridays,” at Jamaicaway Books and Gifts on Centre Street, the day after Thanksgiving, Nov. 24, at 7 p.m.
The evening is the first in a series of Latin jazz concerts and poetry readings followed by an open mic that will feature a different poet on the last Friday of every month.
Jamaicaway Books and Gifts temporarily closed its doors this summer for internal reorganization. Owners wanted to shift the store’s inventory toward being more multicultural, as well as to increase their stock of books that larger bookstores do not often carry, said new store manager Anghara Phillips.
“We are already known for our African focus,” said Phillips. “But we want to be known for serving the entire JP community culture, not just African.”
Phillips—whose mother, Rosalyn Elder owns and used to run the store and turned it over to her this summer—said to be efficient, someone needs to be there at all times. “I have taken the reigns,” Phillips said.
Aside from expanding the collection of books to reflect a wider selection of the stories of more cultures, new plans include events such as “Last Fridays.”
The Sugarfoot Trio led by JP resident Cornell “Sugarfoot” Coley will start the festivities with an hour-long concert each month. Then the featured poet will read, followed by an open mic, open to all poets.
Coley stressed the importance of the poetry. “We think putting words into performance is attractive,” said Coley. “We want to build upon what they [Jamaicaway Books and Gifts] are all about.”
Coley is a lifelong community-based artist who has taught, performed and produced over 100 concerts worldwide including STOMP, Dance Theatre of Harlem and the World Premiere of the Africa Oye Tour.
“I want to encourage poets who haven’t been published to get up and put themselves our there to enjoy the atmosphere,” said Phillips of the open mic segment.
The series is a result of collaboration between Phillips and Coley. “It’s another way to serve the JP community,” said Phillips. “We’re not trying to take away attendees from other venues. We’re trying to add to the JP cultural community.”
“Coley brings his reputation as a well-known person in the community who is connected to others,” said Phillips. She said Coley approached her with the idea in September.
Gibson, next Friday’s feature poet, has been heard numerous times on National Public Radio and featured on WGBH-2 Art Close-Up, for which he was nominated for a Boston Emmy Award. His first collection of poems, “Storms Beneath the Skin,” won the Golden Pen Award.
He has also performed, taught and lectured at universities, theaters and various other venues in seven countries including the Elgin Symphony Orchestra and Orchestra “X,” a multi-ethnic ensemble of classically trained musicians from several countries.
In 1998 he founded “The Church of the Funky World,” a literary and musical arts ensemble utilizing classical, contemporary and original literary texts, music and rituals from various world cultures. He is pursuing a master’s of fine arts in creative writing at New England College.
Future feature poets include Letta Neely, Raquel Saraswati, Becky Thompson, Richard Cambridge, Laura Soul Brown and Danielle Legrof Georges.
“We hope to get a good response,” said Coley. “We want people to bring their kids… We want college kids…It will probably be a three-hour event with breaks.”
“I’m very excited,” said Phillips.
On-site child care will also be offered for $5. Admission to the event is $5. The store also hosts a Sunday Afternoon Jazz Jam from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Jamaicaway Books and Gifts is located at 676 Centre St. For more information call 983-3204.