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Thoughts of an Incarcerated Man: An Interview with Poet Red Storm

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Poet Red Storm will perform at the Fly Poet Spoken Word showcase on December 1, 2010

The next Flypoet Spoken Word & Music Showcase is December 1, 2010 and will feature the usual line up of unusually talented artists. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Red Storm, one of the featured performers.  Red Storm is a poet, musician, motivational speaker and author who, in his own words, is just a, “regular dude.” He has transformed the pain of his life as a former convict and drug addict into a successful career as a highly acclaimed spoken word artist. Yet, he is humble and quick to give God the praise for his success.  Red Storm does admit to having the, “…ability to write my feelings down on paper and use them to motivate people.” He says he speaks for regular everyday people who don’t have a voice.  While he might consider himself to be ‘regular’, according to the Chicago Tribune, “Red Storm is to poetry what John the Baptist was to Jesus, a purifier.” Anyone who has witnessed a Red Storm performance would easily agree with that analogy.

Red Storm resides in Chicago, IL but he travels to Los Angeles often where he’s graced the Fly Poet stage for five performances.  This formerly incarcerated man took time out to share his thoughts with CultureMob.com readers.

Juliana Mims: Red thanks for talking with me today.  The first time I saw you perform I was blown away and became a fan instantly.  Recently on the Red Storm Facebook Fan page, one of your fans posted a message on your wall thanking you for speaking to a youth group.  I love that you give back to the community. Tell me about who or what in your past motivated you to become a spoken word artist?

Red Storm: Pain, trouble, and jail.  I was just trying to write to save myself first. Poetry got me through the bad times. I was in jail, my mom died. Poetry was just the thing that helped save my life. And it turned into help for other people.  Like I said, my poems seem to help motivate other people as well.

JM: You’ve performed on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam and on many stages across the country.  Your poetry tells the tale of a past life quite different from your present.  Which of your poems best describes the transition between those two periods?

RS: My poem called Thank You, which is a gospel piece that thanks God for saving me. I came from one extreme to the next extreme.  I was a down and out drug addict. Whatever you can imagine as bad that’s what I went through. Then I went from the bottom to the top. Even though that’s great it is hard to deal with.  Sometimes that’s hard to handle.  It’s not always easy to handle the success.

JM: Has poetry continued to help you deal with the newfound struggles?

RS: Sometimes it does and sometimes not.

JM:  Your rhymes tell a brutally honest personal story.  Your poetry also serves as a poignant social commentary.  You reside in Chicago where the local political scene has attracted and maintained the national media spotlight over the past few years.  What are you seeing that you wish the politicians would shine the spotlight on?

RS: There are so many issues but first of all the school system.  One public high school gets more amenities than the next public high school and that is not right.  I also want politicians to understand that the majority of the people in Chicago and IL jails are not criminals.  They’re dope fiends; they have drug problems, and minor problems that can be fixed.  Really, most of the people that are in jail are dope fiends. Everybody is not a Jeffrey Dahmer, or robbing or killing. These people have problems that need to be fixed. They take away rehabilitation centers and replace them with a new addition to the jail. They’re not about rehabilitation and helping. They’re about locking people up and ruining people’s lives for their own benefits. It’s not just happening in Chicago. It’s happening in Los Angeles and every major city.

It’s worth noting the passion in Red Storm’s voice as he discussed those issues that have affected him personally.  That passion is beautifully evident in his stage performances.  His poetry spans a wide variety of topics including pain, joy, oppression, and redemption.   I tried to get a hint as to what he might focus on for his next L.A. performance.

JM: You’ll be performing at the December Flypoet in Los Angeles.  Do you plan your performances in advance or do you take requests from the audience?

RS: I never know what I’m gonna do. I just get on stage and look at the crowd and go from there. I get a vibe from the crowd and that’s how I pick which poem to start with and from that first poem I’ll figure out what else I’ll do. It’s never prepared or premeditated.

JM: You have a lot of material out there. What are your latest projects?

RS: My last three albums are Thoughts of an Incarcerated Man, New Beginnings, which is a gospel album, and the latest is Redemption, which features Syleena Johnson, Fred Hampton, Jr., and a host of other poets. People can contact me on Facebook for more info but I will have those three albums for sale at Flypoet on Wednesday night.  I have a documentary out called This is me, The Story of Red Storm, and I also have music on iTunes with other artists.

JM: Finally Red, CultureMob.com readers check in with us to stay up on the latest events and to get info about local places and things to do.  Since you visit our city so often for the Flypoet show can you tell our readers your favorite place* to go in Los Angeles?

Red Storm at Venice Beach

RS: Flypoet definitely. I also like Venice beach.  I like microphone sessions on Monday nights with Leila Steinberg.  I’m a close friend of Leila Steinberg – she was Tupac’s first manager – and she does Monday night sessions in Baldwin Hills at the Armor House.  Those are my favorite things to do when I come to L.A.  I’m not that complicated of a person.  I just like to hang with my people.

Red Storm will perform live at the Flypoet Spoken Word & Music Showcase on December 1, 2010 at the Savoy Entertainment Center.  He is the author of Finder of Lost Souls, which can be purchased on Amazon.

*In his first answer, RS lovingly names his, ‘girl’s house’ as his favorite place to go.  Although, it was a smooth thing to say (I’m not even his girl and it made me blush) I suggested that he share a place where other people might actually visit.