We met all eight of them—Zaniah, DaCorian, Zykiria, Hayden, Mya, Tyland, Christian and Lamar— in downtown Birmingham. Somewhere by 16th and 1st Avenue North. All of them are part of The Creative Mindz Dance Crew. Muriel Tarver, the manager of the group, and Tyland’s mother, helped us find a location where they would feel comfortable, and natural, being and dancing in — it was a little area where kids go to skate. And on this day, read poetry and dance.
Before we started filming they all had their own headphones on, so they could listen to their own music, and they started dancing. Personally, about 110% of the time, I’m super shy about dancing in front of anyone other than no-one, so I learned a lot from seeing these guys just go at it. They were in their own worlds expressing themselves, for themselves. Publicly. It’s a way of being, and a form of expression, that I think is rare. Or usually only happens in isolated situations meant for dance. But it’s just what these guys do. You can tell it's a huge part of who they are every second of the day.
After some time we mic-ed them up and started to film the readings, one person after another. (We didn’t get to film Christian or Lamar reading because it started to get too dark. It still upsets me to this day, but we did get to film all of them dancing.) We asked each of the readers to just recite the verse in their own voice, no need to sound like a “poet.” They were all so good, and in the end clearly didn't need the encouragement to "just be themselves." They each embodied who they were, and the verse, so specifically — it was empowering to witness. Someimes I think people, or maybe I should just say "I," get lost in trying to be something other than what I am. Even acidentally. Watching these guys was a great reminder to just be. Shake off the rest.
If I'm lucky I'll cross paths with each of these guys again sometime down the road...
by filmmaker Jenn Crandall as told to writer Liz Hildreth