By Kevin Kelley
The call of “Distinguished” by Honey Bell-Bey, the performance poetry group’s founder, was followed by its members answering in unison “Marked by eminence or excellence.”
The call of “Gentleman!” was answered by “A man of good family. A well-bred man.”
Comprised of African-Americans ages 12 to 22, the Distinguished Gentlemen of the Spoken Word will bring the art of performance poetry to Westlake Porter Public Library (27333 Center Ridge Road) at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 19. Their performance is part of the Porter’s Sunday Sounds program.
The Gentlemen recite classic and modern poetry and combine it with movement to create the art of spoken word.
“They have a very large repertoire,” Bell-Bey told West Life. “Everything from Shakespeare to their own poems.”
At the City Club appearance in May, a poem the members recited included the line “I aim high. I do not settle for mediocrity.” While saying “I aim high,” each mimed as if shooting a basketball. The performance included stomping and other gestures.
Bell-Bey, who founded the group in 2003, said it’s not just the poetry but the structure of the organization that helps form the members’ character. In addition to taking a pledge not to abuse drugs or get involved in violence, members attend weekly character development classes that teach important life skills.
And the poetry is more than just an art form for members of the Gentlemen. It’s a motivational tool to keep them on the right path in life.
The power of positive thinking, even in the face of significant obstacles, was stressed in the Gentlemen’s City Club performance.
“Everybody likes to win. But if you think you can’t, it’s almost certain you won’t,” one poem read. “It’s the one who thinks he can.”
Then each boy said, with confidence and determination, “I can.”