The Soul Justice Project brings hip-hop and political edge to Mesa Arts Center

As most people traveled west from the light rail stop at McClintock and Apache Boulevard to join in on  the usual First Friday festivities, I took the train going East to attend the one-night only showing of Phonetic Spit's spin-off performance, the Soul Justice Project.

Mesa has its own version of the popular downtown Phoenix street fair. I passed street vendors, Pink Floyd cover bands and around 300 motorcycles parked along Main Street.

Out here

A photo posted by Temporary (@logansaether) on

The Soul Justice Project consists of artists in many interdisciplinary fields. It was conceived by Tomas Stanton co-founder of Phonetic Spit, a community organization that promotes the art of writing and poetry to youth in Phoenix. 

One of the show's goals was to combat the silencing of marginalized voices. Some of the topics took on a political edge during the performance.  

Stanton was outspoken about the injustice surrounding the shooting of Tamir Rice in Cleveland by police and similar incidents across the country, asking the audience, "When will it stop?"

Other artists featured were hip-hop wordsmith Myrlin Hepworth, Arizona's only circus poet Joy Young, dance master J Bouey, Liliana Gomez and Sydney Jackson.

The show was a collaboration between these various artists, with solo acts of the performers mixed in with music interludes, dance group choreography and DJ spinning.

Performer Joy Young's work involves the dangers of the myopic pursuit of gay marriage to the detriment of the most vulnerable in our community. She delivered a monologue on stage, applauding the format of the performance.

"The idea of the show is the intersection of the voices of different groups to allow people to connect to one another," Young said.  

J Bouey delivered an interpretive dance piece alongside a recorded poem that referenced the shooting of Trayvon Martin.  

"I don't wanna be Mike Brown/ I don't wanna be Trayvon/ I don't wanna see my mom because she called me by seance," the poem said.

Hepworth, and ASU alumnus, brought the show closer to home by sharing a narrative of his struggles with his Mexican heritage. After the show, he expressed satisfaction of the performance as a whole. 

"Aside from bringing to the surface some important narrative, the overall performance of the whole cast was incredible, purposeful and filled with intention," Hepworth said.  

He felt the motivations behind the Soul Justice Project were heard and well received.  

"The duty of art is to make people feel, to reanalyze and rediscover ideas about the world and see themselves in places where they may have not seen themselves before," he said.  "You can tell by the audience that there was visceral reactions to what was happening there was people who shed tears, there was people who laughed, there was people who were engaged in the work and that is the goal."

Stanton closed out the performance by encouraging community involvement.

"Since we started this show six months ago there's been more deaths... We need to start a dialogue. Find out how you can get yourself involved."

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