With Drop the Mic, Students Preach and Learn

Jarell Currie, who goes by the stage name, Black Cancer (a.k.a. Brave Lion Applying Concrete Knowledge Consume All Necessities Courageous Encouraging Rebel), connected to Drop the Mic after attending the spoken word poetry workshop at the College in 2007.

As a rap artist, Black Cancer saw spoken word poetry as an outlet to enhance his genre. Spoken word also enabled Black Cancer to understand himself and people better. As a teen, he had a lot of anger and it helped him to express those feelings.
“I am more self-aware now. I’m an introvert and social at the same time; spoken word really got me out of my shell,” said Black Cancer.
Michelle Myers, associate professor of English at Community College of Philadelphia and a professional spoken word poet, believes that every student has a story to tell. She believes self-expression can be the key to unlocking the unfamiliar world of academia for first-generation students.
Drop the Mic, a three-time nominee for a Mid-Atlantic Emmy, connects students to English, communications and more through powerful story-telling.
Cosponsored by the Office of Student Life, Drop the Mic is produced entirely at the College by the Multimedia Services video production team and the most recent season aired on CCPTV in spring 2017. The hour-long spoken word competition debuts talented spoken-word students who use beautiful expressions, words and gestures to weave stories.
Spoken word is a bit of a catch-all term, often applied to any performance that involves someone talking on a stage for which other terms – musical, theatrical, dance –  don't fit. It’s storytelling that gives students the permission to delve deeply into a topic they find fascinating, including their own thoughts and feelings.
On Oct. 10, 17 and 24, Drop the Mic holds its fourth season of the spoken word competition. Featured performers include: Logical (a.k.a. Charles Jones), Charmira Nelson-Pilgrim and Yolanda Wisher and her band The Afroeaters. All performances will be held in the Bonnell Auditorium, Room BG-20 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. and 2:40 to 4:10 p.m. Season four will air in spring 2018.
One of last season’s judges, Alisha Dantzler, views spoken word poetry as a powerful means of self-expression.
“It really moves me. It was a different atmosphere and Michelle encouraged us to open up and do what we wanted to do and not necessarily what others wanted us to do,” said Dantzler.
Dantzler was performing spoken word poetry since she was in high school. For 11 years she would perform at poetry festivals and started taking Myers’ spoken word poetry workshops at the College in 2008 while Dantzler was still in high school. After graduating high school, Dantzler enrolled in the College and continued taking Myers’ workshops. When Drop the Mic was launched, Myers contacted Dantzler to become a judge on the panel.
Dantzler graduated from the College in 2012 and moved on to obtain her bachelor’s from Alvernia University in 2016. Her experience with spoken word poetry has not only helped her personally, but helped her in her career.
“I work with a lot of kids with behavioral health issues and a lot of times poetry can help them express themselves. Even though I didn’t major in creative writing or English this is still a big part of the way I deal with feelings in a positive way and we can use expression to navigate through the world of life and it can be a learning experience,” said Dantzler.
Myers wanted to bridge the gap between expressive writing and academic writing and three years ago reached out to Allan Kobernick, director of Multimedia Services and producer of CCPTV, to create Drop the Mic.
“Too many times we talk about student deficiencies, and you will often hear students say they can’t write because they were put in developmental reading or writing. I say they are wrong and that they can write. I created this show because I listened to all the beautiful stories in the poetry workshops and I wanted to provide a space where the students can appreciate each other,” said Myers. “In so many ways writing and performing spoken word poetry enables students to build confidence as well as a better understanding of different structures of language. Hopefully, through Drop the Mic, we can help students access diverse modes of communication at the same time that we can inspire the College community to get on board and support the theme that we can also change the language we use and not talk so much about student deficiencies.”
While poetry long has been a staple of K-12 English classes, spoken word poetry is an art form that extends from the beat poetry of the 1950s to contemporary rap. The powerful and important thing about spoken word is, it doesn’t matter what the words look like on paper. It’s about what it sounds like when it’s said out loud.  Spoken word is especially well-suited to connecting with young people at an emotional level, making traditional poetry more accessible to students and sharpening their critical-thinking skills.
Drop the Mic is also the winner of the Telly and Communicator awards. CCPTV, the College’s cable channel (Comcast 53 and FIOS 21) broadcasts to Philadelphia subscribers of Comcast and Verizon with a reach of about 325,000 potential viewers.