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Pass the Word VI Creates Community Space for Spoken Word on St. Thomas

Tantra Zawadi performs an emotional spoken word piece at 81C. From left are Tantra Zawadi and Jada Lark, an ASL interpreter. (Photo by Hamza Jackson)

Pass the Word VI, an organization that was founded in 2023 by poetry enthusiast Katie Landry, is committed to creating safe space on St. Thomas where locals and visitors alike can gather to present their own spoken word pieces, as well as enjoy the poetry shared by others in the community.

Originally from Louisiana, Landry has always enjoyed the creative expression and emotional release that spoken word offers. Upon arriving to St. Thomas, she felt inspired by Rhyme and Lime, a St. John-centered poetry group organized by Raven Phillips-Love, and felt deeply that the St. Thomas community could benefit from a similar poetry-inspired gathering.

“I wanted to do something here on St. Thomas. I realized that there were enough people here who wanted to do it and were interested, so I partnered with 81C. I loved their ambiance and their space and it allowed for an intimate setting that would lend itself to the safe, close-knit container I was wanting to create. I chose the name Pass the Word because it captures the idea of sharing the stories of your ancestors, the stories currently in your life, and the stories you are ready to finally put to bed. Pass the Word insinuates a passing of invaluable wisdom,” Landry said.

Omar Ewen shares a self-written song dedicated to honoring his grandmother’s life. From left are Omar Ewen and Jada Lark, an ASL interpreter. (Photo by Hamza Jackson)

It’s very important to Landry that not only are Virgin Islanders’ voices included in the planning of each monthly spoken word event, but they also feel ownership over the organization’s future. “I am white, I am not from here, and I have not experienced the colonization that is deeply felt in this community. I realize that I don’t have all the answers and so I ask the people from here, true Virgin Islanders, for their input that is so necessary to ensuring that we are welcoming and supportive to the people that are from this land. I hope I live here forever and I love my life here, but if I am called from these islands, it is my hope that this organization will continue on in my absence. Pass the Word VI doesn’t belong to Katie Landry, it belongs to the community of the Virgin Islands,” she said.

One of the integral pillars of the Pass the Word VI organization is education. Creative writers, authors, and poets are invited to host regular workshops in which various elements of writing can be refined and honed.

On Wednesday, Feb. 14, at 6 p.m., Pass the Word VI, in collaboration with 81C, is excited to announce their guest poet and creative writer, April T. Glasgow, who will be facilitating a creative writing workshop followed by a poet’s dinner at Amalia Cafe.

“April and I met at the BVI Literary Fest that occurred in November of 2023. We ended up becoming fast friends. She is an incredible writer and poet and quite accomplished. April won the 2022 UNESCO World Poetry Day Competition, was a presenter at the 2022 Ted X Road Town event, and facilitates spoken word events in the BVI. I was so impressed with her writing and the way she performed. In poetry you can say your piece with your mouth or you can say your piece with your whole body. April has the gift of performing poetry with her whole body. It was incredible to witness,” Landry said.

Amber Knight delivers passionate poem at the January spoken word event themed “True Confessions.” From left are Amber Knight and Jada Lark, an ASL interpreter. (Photo by Hamza Jackson)

In addition to the writing workshop, Pass the Word VI is also hosting its monthly spoken word event on Thursday, Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. The theme for this month’s event is “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” and calls on creatives to use poetry, short stories, and songwriting as a way of sharing stories about love, lust, and heartbreak on the island.

Landry deeply feels that poetry offers a way to move difficult emotions out of the body, and by creating spoken word pieces that capture the highs and lows of life, we create bridges of connection with each other. “It’s not about measuring up or comparing. It’s about us having our own stories. We all experience life, love, heartbreak, and loss. These are human and this is about humanity,” she said.

If you are interested in learning more about Pass the Word VI, visit their Facebook page or register for their upcoming writer’s workshop at info@passthewordvi.com.

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