Taped to my Mirror: How C. C. Carter was Saved by a Poem

~5/17/2011 ~ Do you remember the wondrous woman in Chapter Three of my book, whose grandmother saved her from teenage depression by “prescribing” Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman” as medicine, to be recited morning and night? C.C. Carter is now a world renowned performance poet who is using her voice to stop violence against women. She founded POW WOW, INC, a weekly spoken venue that has changed the lives of men and women “who refuse to stay silent” about abuse.

C.C.Carter

I received this extraordinary poem from her last month and want to share it, and her work, with you (scroll down for more information on C.C. and POW WOW):

I was saved by a poem, by a poem written on a page but
recited out loud.  A poem that begged to be spoken cause its
intention would be missed if hummed under breath silently.
I was saved by a poem, by a poem that infused the
Mississippi Mass Choir and Nikki Giovanni’s voice over
a stereo system on Sunday morning before leaving for church.
I was saved by a poem, by a poem that transformed my
grandmother from a little old lady into a sultry Harlem
Renaissance starlet reciting Langston Hughes and Paul
Laurence Dunbar while peeling white potatoes and
snapping green beans or playing dress up with clothes
from her secret trunk hidden in the attic – I, by her side
watching and mimicking every move and vocal intonation.
I was saved by a poem, a poem that was my prayer taped to
my mirror so that I could recite every night before bed and
every morning before leaving for school – my armor into the world
of petite thin girls and weight watcher recruiters who
dared to try and battle me and Maya as Phenomenal Women.
I was saved by a poem, by a choreopoem just for colored girls
like me who were raised with a myriad of etiquette and
cultural codes of conduct of shouldn’ts, couldn’ts,
wouldn’ts and don’ts. I was saved by a poem, by a poem
that I once wrote that I didn’t always believe its power,
but performed anyway – pretended grandma was right next
to me, watched women come alive from being dead inside,
start dancing and swaying big hips and ample thighs and
then I joined in, felt their testimony and was saved too,
again.  I was saved by a poem.

More about C.C…

C.C. Carter  is a Chicagoan with national prominence on the performance poetry scene. Her first book, Body Language, a collection of poetry, was nominated for a 2003 Lambda Literary Award. She is the winner of a host of poetry slams including winning the Fifth Annual Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Competition and the First Annual Behind Our Masks Poetry Slam. She has created and maintained several traditions in the poetry community, including national and local poetry slams for people of color, and the women of color night at Mountain Moving Coffeehouse.  She has participated in hundreds of women’s music festivals, including the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, and has sold out performances on both coasts.

In 2001 she founded POW-WOW, Inc, a weekly spoken word venue that has received honors and award recognition for being a safe space for women to develop, showcase and listen to other women artists.  POW-WOW is a staple for the international and national poetry elite – having showcased Stacyann Chin, sharon bridgforth, Eve Ensler and a host of Def Poetry Jam artists who list POW-WOW as a “must do” on their tour schedules.  C.C. has produced large scale events for the Department of Cultural Affairs and the Chicago Gay Games.

As a result of her arts and activism work, she has received numerous awards and honors, including being inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame for her work as an advocate in Arts and Culture and the 2004 Trailblazer Award for her work and curation of Lesbian theatre projects.  In 2005 C.C. Carter was one of six international recipients to be dubbed the esteemed title by Eve Ensler of Vagina Warrior for her work in creating a safe space for women artists who are survivors of violence.  In  2006 she received the Model of Hope Award by Pride and Equality Magazine.

In 2008 C.C. received the Social Activist Award from the Chicago Area YWCA Domestic Violence Center for her social justice poetry and performances.

2010 marks new milestones in C.C.’s Career as she is honored as an ICON in LGBTQ African American Cultural Arts in Chicago – from Art and Soul

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