Like many wordsmiths, Israel “Negus Izzy” Sorenson’s poetry is centered on storytelling. Poetry and word performance, holds power Sorenson wields to cope with big emotions, as well as connect with audiences. He creates imagery, and projects and evokes relatable feelings through life events. Happy or devastating, in some way or another, most everyone can connect or empathize.
Sorenson wrote a poem in 2015, “Daddy’s Little Girl,” filled with scenes of typical happy moments shared between a father and his daughter throughout the years they know and grow together. However, it’s eventually revealed it’s all a dream.
“His daughter did not make it to term and was miscarried,” the poet tells of the story, which is based on Sorenson losing his first child. “I was really upset about it because I’ve always been a ‘family man.’ Of course, I was really excited to be a father and to have that just taken away so quickly in the moment was a painful experience. The only way I knew how to express it was through my writing.”
From an early age, Sorenson developed a love for reading and writing. His mother was a proponent of literature, which lead to him being able to (and allowing himself) to tap into a well of human emotion, especially topics not often discussed in black male communities.
“Normally when a miscarriage happens, we see the woman’s perspective but we never talk about how the father feels,” he explains. “[‘Daddy’s Little Girl’] is one of my favorites because it shows a story can be told and a lesson can be learned from someone else’s perspective, while going through something traumatic that people don’t talk about.”
Sorenson is part of Mics Wide Open, a collective of Wilmington poets and writers. He hosts Fresh Ink every second Saturday at Bottega Art and Wine Gallery in the Brooklyn Arts District. As well, he competes in competitions and poetry slams across North Carolina. Sorenson will perform this Friday night at Lumina Fest’s Coast 97.3 Poetry Jam.
Black Arts Alliance (BAA) is among the beneficiaries of Friday’s event. Founded in August 1998 by artists and arts patrons, BAA nurtures area performing, visual and literary artists. Coastal 97.3’s Sandra “The Midday Miss” McClammy (BAA treasurer) and Brandon “Bigg B” Hickman (BAA president) will host the show.
“As an alliance we regularly collaborate with other institutions that share our mission,” McClammy says, “including UNCW, Cape Fear Museum, Cape Fear Community College, the Louise Wells Cameron Art Museum, et al. We have developed a loyal following of arts enthusiasts representing a broad cross-section of the community through distinctive programming.”
Coast 97.3’s poetry jam also will benefit BAA’s North Carolina Black Film Festival, slated for September 20-23, 2018.
Performers have flocked to Coast 97.3’s Poetry Jam stage, which launched 12 years ago. Hickman and McClammy wanted the event to mirror the format of HBO’s “Def Poetry Jam.” They auditioned performers who cover a varied range of poetry and topics. “We have some who are speakers of love and romance, while others may speak on politics, community, the human condition, or just the plain humor of life,” McClammy details.
“We promote them as our ‘All-Stars,’” Hickman adds. “[97.3] believes in fostering a community that appreciates the world of entertainment and arts. With poetry being a foundation of music, we are strong advocates of those who perform it in the format of spoken word.”
Leading up to Friday’s headlining poet, Edwin Lawrence III (aka “Life”), Sorenson is joined by I’mmunique “AYCE,” Tina “Charisma” Hankins and Deirdre “DIVA” Parker. Parker has served as a mentor to Sorenson since he entered the poetry jam and arts scene three years ago. “She told me, ‘Speak your truth,’” he shares. “I know if I speak my truth, I can’t be upset with the outcome of my art.”
Sorenson cites a continuously growing group of artists, events and groups (like Athenian Press) as a new Renaissance Age for the black arts community. The increasingly diverse nonprofits, as well as businesses, stand as examples needed for the youth community.
“My goal as an artist is to extend my art outside of poetry,” Sorenson continues. “Even in nonprofits, volunteer work and other facets to show we as artists—especially black male artists are becoming Renaissance men, not just men but the black community as a whole.”
Sorenson remains mum about work specific to Lumina Fest. However, he will continue to explore topics often taboo or rarely if ever discussed in black male culture—mental illness, anxiety and depression among them.
“That’s the next big message I want to convey through my art,” he continues. “It’s OK to have to deal with these things. A lot of times we’re told as black men, to be masculine is to hide your emotions. [I want to] use this art form to show we are still human, we feel the way anybody else feels, and we have the right to want to seek help without the stigma.”
Each poet is allowed to select two poems, and the feature poet will perform three to four. Content will range from PG to R—some language, material and/or topics might not be suited for young children.
More info about the Black Arts Alliance can be found at www.blackartsalliance.org and the North Carolina Black Film Festival’s Facebook page.