Sep 18. 2011

PODCAST: Beloved Poets Society, a tribute to David Blair

by Nora

We’ve been living in Detroit for a month now. As we’ve walked, ridden bikes, driven around the city, and most importantly met with a diverse range of Detroiters, we’ve come to realize this city is a mosaic of many villages. The sense of community bonds these villages together. Each of Detroit “tribe” is filled with craftsmen (the DIY – Do It Yourself- culture rules in a city where there’s no big supermarket and very few shops), elders (direct and distant heirs of the Model T) and bards (those who sing and celebrate Detroit). David Blair belonged to the later category. This adopted son of the “D” was a musician, a slammer/poet, a community activist and an inspiration to many. He was a leader of creativity in a wounded, yet proud city. His performances took him throughout the U.S., Russia, Europe and South Africa, but his favorite place always remained Detroit, where he had been living since the 90s. Blair died on July 27th, 2011, at age 41. This past Saturday, the first annual event that would pay tribute to his heritage took place at the Tangent Gallery: “Blair’s Crowded House,” named after the show the beloved poet created and hosted yearly in an effort to expose the Detroit community to a variety of its homegrown artists. This event made me think of what 96-year old celebrated activist Grace Lee Boggs writes in her latest book The Next American Revolution, urging us all to “grow our souls:”

In this period, we need artists to create new images that will liberate us from our preoccupation with constantly expanding production and consumption and open up space in our hearts and minds to imagine and create another America that will be viewed by the world as a beacon rather than as a danger.

Such artists were all there last Saturday at the Crowded House, which was, indeed, crowded. Talented musicians and performers played on stage one after the other. Here are some recordings we made during the show. [soundcloud params="auto_play=false&show_comments=true"][/soundcloud] “The Boyfriends” – Blair’s band (urban folk+afro punk) [soundcloud params="auto_play=false&show_comments=true"][/soundcloud] Slam: “Unrepentent Eve” by Airea Dee Matthews [soundcloud params="auto_play=false&show_comments=true"][/soundcloud] Hip Hop: “Keep Going” by Invincible For more cool sounds, check out our Soundcloud space here. Blair would have probably known what the “je t’aime” (“I love you” in French) means from our blog title…

Blair was passionate about the Chevalier de Saint-George, known as the “Black Mozart” in 18th century France. Blair wanted to go to France to study him further, but never got a chance to…

To get a better sense of Blair’s talent, watch him give his poem, “Detroit (While I was away)” at the 2009 TEDxDetroit conference: [youtube=] All proceeds from the event went toward the David Blair Memorial, a fund created to assist Detroit artists with their needs in times of crisis.