I’m a yes person. I’ll agree to participate in almost any kind of experience, and at 31, it’s been a pretty good way to grow and learn more about the world around me. “Hey, wanna listen to this album?” Sure. “Wanna see this movie?” Of course. “Wanna go to a book signing and release party?” Yes, sign me up! When you have an open mind and see newness as an opportunity, your walk through life is a series of exciting adventures.
This mindset leads me to a meet up with friends in Leimert Park of South LA. A friend of a friend, LA local Camari Cater was celebrating the recent publishing of her book Death By Comb. None of this meant anything to me a week ago, but now, I can’t get the uplifting experience out of my head.
Although I have lived in the Los Angeles area for almost 10 years, I haven’t ventured far from my home. I don’t live close to the downtown area. People unfamiliar with LA topography don’t understand how big Los Angeles County is. Sometimes a long drive will be the only reason to turn down an outing. The World Stage is only 15 miles from my house, but because of traffic, it took over an hour to get to this event. My “yes” brain ignored all rational (OMG traffic) thoughts and hoped it would be worth the drive.
The whole situation was such an amazing surprise, and I’m still brimming with positive energy. In a small venue, The World Stage opened it’s doors in 1989, and continues to be a place for musicians and writers to improve their craft. Almost every night of the week provides members of the community a chance to experience art, music, literature, and brotherhood.
I went expecting a well-lit room with folding chairs and bookshelves. Book events of my past were singular events, usually without an opening act. But World Stage is just that- a stage. It was like poetry at the Apollo. The stage itself held a drum set, but unoccupied. Instead, a DJ on a laptop pumped hip-hop and soul through the venue between acts. Mind you, he didn’t blast music around the place, it was barely audible when it was on. It was just to create an atmosphere.
Every Wednesday is the Anansi Writer’s Workshop, worked in three parts. The night started with one or two people trying out their new pieces with the crowd and receiving feedback. They would distribute copies of their poem, then read it twice for the crowd. The rest of us could say what we liked or didn’t like, or more appropriately, give suggestions to make the works flow better. The second part consists of artists performing spoken word pieces and songs. This was performance level art or your best possible selves. Examples included songs about love and poetry about self-hate. I cried, I laughed, I sang along when I could. Finally, Camari Carter performed poems from her book, including the book title “Death By Comb”.
I learned a lot about Camari. She went to a small college and hadn’t exactly ended up where she thought she would be in her career. Filled with energy, she sang to us as she reminisced about one day becoming a concert pianist. She spoke of sadness in the retelling of a tragic incident as a preschool teacher. And of course, she talked about her hair. She opened up about her triumphs and heartaches, using comedy to pull us in. We could relate to the ups and downs of hair, lost dreams, and building a family. I knew I would be driving home with a copy of her new book. A book published through World Stage Press.
The World Stage started printing books in 2014. World Stage Press is the creation of Conney Williams and Hiram Sims. They do outreach in schools, giving away books by prolific and historical black writers. When they have book releases, such as this one, each new author also gives away 5 books by black writers. I happened to snag The Heart of the Happy Hollow, a collection of short stories by Paul Laurence Dunbar. The goal of World Stage Press is to produce more works by African-American authors. This is an evolution of The World Stage, and even further back to the Watts Writer’s Workshops.
I had never heard of The World Stage or their extraordinary outreach, and now I feel like a changed woman. I know what it’s like to grow up with a hometown literary heroine. The pride you have for the authors before you radiate through your own writings. Leimert Park has that same literary connection. They are carving out a space for new talent and giving them a platform to stand on.
It’s evident that The World Stage and World Stage Press are making a difference in the communities of Leimert Park, Inglewood, Crenshaw, and the rest of Los Angeles.
See what happens when you just say “yes”?