From Rebecca Ramirez at Hollywood First Look:
On a cool, wintery night this past Sunday, Dec. 11, Get Lit – Words Ignite celebrated its 12th annual gala on the Grammy Museum’s Rooftop Terrace. The Past The Margin gala honored the multi-talented artist H.E.R. and celebrated the creation of the Best Spoken Word Poetry Album Award that will make its debut at the 2023 Grammy Awards ceremony taking place on Feb. 5.
The Grammy-winning artist was recognized with the Ignite Artist Award. H.E.R. was a former student of the Get Lit program, participating in the first Get Lit Classic Slam in 2012. While receiving her award, she thanked her former teacher and her dad, who were in attendance, as well as Diane Luby Lane, founder and executive director of Get Lit and the Get Lit organization, for providing a platform that, in her words, gave her a different kind of confidence that made her the artist that she is today. Moved by the introduction video they created in her honor, she said, “I look back on my journey, and when I see videos like that and when I remember what was happening during that time, it’s a reminder to me to stay true to myself, to stay authentic, to keep using my voice.”
As for receiving the Ignite Artist award, she said, “I’ve received some awards in the past few years in my career, but I have to say, this one – it might be the most special one to me. And it’s because those full-circle moments are the ones that mean the most to me.”
Shihan Van Clief was another honoree receiving the Ignite Community Award for his contributions to the spoken word art form. He told Hollywood First Look he felt overwhelmed but great to be receiving this recognition. Van Clief co-founded and hosted Da Poetry Lounge in Hollywood, Calif., the longest-running poetry venue in the United States. When asked about the secret to his success, he said, “We are going on our 25th year of running the Da Poetry Lounge, and I feel like what has made it successful and what I recognized kind of after the fact – not when we started it, we started it just to do it – but in hindsight, we realized there are so many people who feel like they have something to say or want to feel connected to something and the lounge provides a place for people to feel connected.” Van Clief also highlighted the important work Get Lit is doing in giving young people a platform to be heard, seen, and recognized for who they are.
Aron Baumel was also an honoree of the night, receiving the Ignite Advisor Award for his contributions as legal counsel, helping Get Lit and its poets over the years. He said it was an honor and a privilege to work with Luby Lane and the Get Lit team and was looking forward to continuing to support the program and its future poets.
The Get Lit Executive Director took the stage early in the event as well. She thanked sponsors and attendees for their support and thanked the honorees of the night. Luby Lane was a member of a group of leaders that promoted the creation of the Grammy’s Best Spoken Word Poetry Album Award, and she emphasized the significance the award will have for poets moving forward. Luby Lane spoke with HFL about the importance of the spoken word as an art form.
“I have devoted my life to spoken word poetry and this art form for 16 years. It’s an incredibly powerful art form, and spoken word – you wouldn’t have Martin Luther King Jr., Barack Obama, you wouldn’t even have these great political leaders – John F. K., without the power of spoken word and the power of being a great orator and creating rhythm and emotion with your words,” she said.
On a night celebrating the spoken word art form, performances were an essential part of the gala. The event opened with a moving performance from Grammy-nominated poet, J. Ivy. During his time on stage, Ivy also spoke about working for six years on getting the Best Spoken Word Poetry Album Award created at the Grammys. Like Luby Lane, Ivy was instrumental in getting the award created, writing the proposal and new definition for it. In the past, spoken word nominees had been put in the same category as storytelling, narration, and audiobooks, but now having their own category has allowed for more poets to be nominated. This year, five poets are up for the newly created award, including Ivy, a first in the history of the Grammy Awards ceremony. By recognizing the spoken word as its own award and category, Ivy hopes this will open more doors to aspiring poets.
“One of my dreams is for those that are coming up to aspire to be poets, so when they get that infamous question ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ they’ll say, ‘I want to be a poet,’ so I’m really excited that this award, this category, will help shine more light on this incredible art form that has changed and saved so many lives,” he told HFL.
Lynne Thompson, Poet Laureate of Los Angeles, and Salome Agbaroji, Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles, were also in attendance and gave soulful and inspiring performances. Agbaroji, who participated in the Get Lit program, expressed her excitement about performing at the gala, “I always feel very privileged for any event I’m able to do with Get Lit. It’s such a welcoming space, it’s so conducive to creativity, and it’s really a family. So, whenever I get to share a stage and see the fruits of the labor of everyone at Get Lit that works to make sure that youth like me can be creative, freely, and without the barrier of lack of access to certain resources or stages, it’s something I look forward to every time.”
Poets from the Get Lit Players program also performed throughout the event, reciting their spoken word responses to classic poems they claimed, a key aspect of the Get Lit curriculum. Closing out the performances for the night was Grammy-nominated poet Sekou Andrews, who delivered a thunderous and lively performance.
Get Lit- Words Ignite is a Los Angeles-based education nonprofit whose mission is to increase literacy, empower youth, and energize communities through poetry and visual media. Proceeds from the silent auction and the gala supported Get Lit’s literacy programs throughout Southern California schools.