Soul Sessions plans a performance event to share experiences in dealing with the impact of COVID-19.
When Bryan Harvest Blaque Hancock was asked to host a poetry event in an intimate venue in downtown Roanoke six years ago, he had no idea where it would take him.
"It's just something that's kind of taken on a life of it's own. It's more about outreach and community development. That's what we found out in the past few years. People are being more receptive to listen and learn from other people and their personal stories through poetry."
"Through the lens of love I see the beauty in my differences. I exist perfectly in my colored skin. I counter culture. I delight in serving all people. I won't ignore the pain of others."
That’s William McKenzie, from his poem I Am Love, performed at a recent event at Spot On Kirk.
Hancock explains why these gatherings are called Soul Sessions,
"Baring our soul. There's so much that we hide inside.You don't know what people are going through or why they do the things that they do. And, so it's a place where you can strip off that mask. It's a place where you can strip off those things you normally wouldn't see every day and have a genuine conversation about those things through poetry."
Chequella Gaines, of Roanoke, shared her poetry at the recent event.
"America, don't ask me what it's like being black when you claim you don't see color. When you seem to only be passionate about issues that fit shoes the size of your feet. While our eyes are fitting tissues from being misused, necks bruised, sound doctrines refused, while you sit back and smell the gunpowder our bodies bleed."
As Soul Sessions grew and attracted larger audiences, Hancock found others who shared his vision, including the owner of a coffee shop at the Taubman Museum of Art where Soul Sessions began performances every other Wednesday.
"And we had to move to the Taubman inside of Morning Brew Coffee; Toya Jones has been very instrumental in helping spread the word, so some average nights we'd have 30 people come in, some nights it would be 50, our special events we max out sometimes at 120."
Now, Soul Sessions has an event planned for the historic Grandin Theatre in Roanoke; My COVID Mixtape, an evening designed for healing music and poetry dedicated to the shared experience during COVID 19 and the lessons learned.
Hancock says regardless of the size of the audience or the venue, the mission remains the same.
"The people that come in there, they're so compelling and so rich and it's been a blessing to have this be I feel in my heart I've been called to do. But, it's not about me, it's about the people you serve."
And about the poetry and the music, as this song by Dylan Dent, Penny For Your Thoughts.