This story was told by Glenn North. Glenn is the poet in residence at the American Jazz Museum, and was honored as the Charlotte Street Foundation’s Generative Performing Artist last year. Glenn is an MFA candidate at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He hosts numerous poetry events in the greater Kansas City area as well as providing workshops for underserved and adjudicated youth. Glenn is the coach of Kansas City’s teen poetry slam team.
Glenn says,……When I was a lot younger I was getting myself into a lot of trouble and drinking a lot and getting high almost every night. I really didn’t have much going for me. Finally my cousin asked me, “Do you want to go to Washington, D.C with me? You’re not really doing anything here.” That sounded like a good idea to me so it wasn’t but about three days later that I had all my stuff packed up and I was in the car on the way to D.C.
I’d been listening to a lot of hip hop at the time and really identified with some of the music. It really spoke to me at that time in my life and resonated for me. One night I ended up with my cousin at a house party for a lot of middle class college type people. It was kind of bourgeois. Then I realized I had three hip hop albums in my pocket, and I put them on the sound system. It was Ready to Die by Biggie Smalls, Southernplayalistickcadillacfunkymusic by Outkast, and Do You Want More by the Roots. These three albums just lit up the party. They just made that party come alive, and then people starting looking at me differently, like I was cool or something. They had never heard anything that sounded like that but they knew it was fresh and it sounded good. All of a sudden from being out of the loop I was the one in the know, someone to look to.
Then a little later I was at a talent show at the Howard University campus and I did a poem and it went over really well. I started feeling a sense of acceptance and like I fit in. I always have a fond spot for hip hop even though a lot of doesn’t promote the things I believe in. But I always remember how it helped me find a spot. Then the poetry really gave me a sense of identity and helped me start on the right track.