Word Circus takes over downtown Riverside

By Saida Maalin

Poets Romaine Washington and Eric “T.R.U.E.” DeVaughn left the audience visibly inspired by their performance at the monthly Riverside Art Walk. 

Audience members interacted with each performance uniquely as both poets showcased their work in a creative way. 

“T.R.U.E. is an acronym for, ‘Thought requires uncommon effort,’” DeVaughn said.. He provoked the audience to think deeper by having everyone connect to the power of his words.  DeVaughn performed a set of writings and excerpts from one of his self-published collections, “Aggressive: The Inherent Violence of My Beastly Unbecoming.” The wordsmith wrapped up his performance with a powerful poem linked to police brutality that African Americans experience here in the U.S.

“I got tired of going to poetry events and hearing certain words repeated…over and over,” he said before his last reading of the evening. “Very necessary conversations, but is there a different way we can say this? So I wrote them down. Thirteen words I have grown weary of hearing as they appear on the page.” The poem left the audience profoundly moved.

Washington followed in DeVaugns performancs “Sirens in Her Belly” and read shorts from her collection of poem. One of the excerpts she read had the entire room in harmony. The piece was dedicated to Spike Lee, a critically acclaimed African American film director, producer and writer. She asked the crowd if they could follow along, chanting “a love supreme,” influenced by the 1990 film “Mo’ Better Blues,” which was directed by Lee.

“I took all of his movies up until 1992 and put it together,” Washington said about the dedication. The entire room swayed on beat and snapped in approval.  

The venue associated with the art walk was held at the Riverside Public Library by the nonprofit organization Inlandia Institute.

“Inlandia Institute is a literary nonprofit organization that serves the Inland Empire,” said Christina Guillen the program coordinator of Inlandia. 

The nonprofit organization aims to “expand literary activity in all its forms in the Inland Empire by publishing books and sponsoring programs that deepen people’s awareness,” according to its website.

The stage opened to the public where individuals signed up for Spoken Word. Inlandia member’s Christina Guillan and Executive Director Cati Porter participated and read from different Inland Authors. 

This month they renamed the experience “ Word Circus” to encourage many different writers to come and share their writing. 

“Inlandia has different writing workshops throughout the Inland Empire,” said Guillen. “All of it is for the community and most of it is free.” 

Guests were welcomed with snacks and drinks and educational coloring pages of historical African Americans buried at Evergreen Memorial. A typewriter was also available for guests to type a note, poem or sentence. 

Spoken Word is open to the public and will be back around on March 5.

“Next month we’re gonna be doing Sheros. It’s going to be for Women’s History Month, similar to Spoken Word but it will be live storytelling.” said Christina.