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Neighbor Spotlight January 2016

Kavon Jones – KJ Prodigy

Kavon Jones – KJ

by Ellen C Warren  
Did you see that poet biking down the streets of Riverwest? The one that made you laugh about fried chicken at last year’s Riverwest Follies. The one that you might not have recognized since he’s left nearly fifty pounds behind in the last several months due to his bike and a passion for it that equals his passion for poetry. That’s Kavon Jones, or Kj Prodigy, or “just Kj.”
But he is never “just” Kj! With a voice that can go from whisper to boom at the speed of a cheeto arching across a room, his poetry gets you thinking, laughing and crying in an equally short span of time and distance.
There is ample reason he is winning awards, receiving honors and being invited to speak and teach. At twenty-one years of age he is one formidable poet! “I like to make sure that my written words are just as powerful as my spoken words,” he says. This may be true, but to hear him is truly a gift. For a tasty sample watch his performance of “Friiied Chickennnnn” at the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center. e=youtu.be
He’s not hard to find on the internet. What he’s tucked under his proverbial tightened belt at such a tender age is beyond impressive. After a couple years of “freelance” readings his first major spot was at Woodland Pattern for the ACLU Banned Books show, the day before his nineteenth birthday. “It was really, really, really fun,” emotes Kj. He read for Waxfest at the former Cocoon Room, made his appearance at the S.M. Performing Arts Center, and did a forty-five minute set with musicians at the Cactus Club. Poet’s Monday featured him for his twenty-first birthday in 2015, also his premier time there due to age restrictions. Kavon hosted the poetry open mic at the all-ages Miramar “for a couple years.”
Kj began to find his poetic voice after he experienced two poets, Kwabena Nixon (who he met years later!) and Muhibb Dyer in the seventh grade at Dr. M.L.K. Jr. Elementary. At Riverside High School his life was altered as a member of Hy-Poetically Speaking, Miss Gulbronson’s Poetry Club.
“I remember a lot of my mentors,” he says. And he is already realizing that relationship from the other side. Kavon has had wonderful, enriching experiences leading poetry workshops with students at Escuela Vieau and Blessed Savior as well as being a First Stage Teacher Apprentice. “One of my passions… is working with kids,” he explains. “You get to make an impact. They’ll remember you.”
The ACLU awarded Kj their Youth Award for 2015. He poetry-facilitates the Youth Social Justice Forum for them.
Kj just finished up his run with Quasimondo as a cast member in “The Children of Pac-Men.” His self-scribed monologue detailed the life of a character who ate way too many cheeto puffs while under the spell of gaming and eventually exploded into “copious microcosms of the crisp orange arches.” Look for him in future theatre performances.

“Merry Christmas, Milwaukee”

by Kavon Jones

We recovered from our Halloween chocolate comas
Thanksgiving leftovers have dwindled to a plate of scalloped cranberry sauce
next to the half eaten pumpkin pie in the fridge

We fully rehabbed from our Budweiser and PBR binges
after Packers lost to the rival Bears, GODDAMNIT it still hurts
Well, at least we go to see Brett Favre retire his number four jersey at halftime

Somehow we were still able to hear the tintinnabulation of bells and tambourines
over Black Friday’s shopping mall brawls
Rampant Facebook posts and televised media showed preposterous videos
of long lines snaked around malls
Civilians pushed, shoved, and fist fought over electronics
they won’t even care about next year ‘cause it’ll be out of date by then
Enough of that malarky though…

Christmas then wraps its white ribbon arms around Milwaukee so tight it’s inescapable
Why would we want to escape?
Why would we want to escape out a snowy fortress of warm feelings?
Why would we not want to embrace new found love for Creme City’s scenery?
New found joy for people we usually look over because of tunnel vision

We angrily dust off our p-coats and snow boots, parkas and thick jeans
like a little cold and snow is going to kill us
We go through this every year
And have yet to normalize Wisconsin weather

We pretend to be sad and frustrated in the morning when weather man says…
A Winter Weather Advisory will be in affect so grab your shovels and bundle up…
but when we look up at the champagne white sky and snow falls
its magic in our eyes and we can’t look away

Blue and white stringed lights connected to central chandeliers
paints Wisconsin Avenue as a Parisian landscape
Fingertip-tingling cold makes panhandling vagrants outside Grand Avenue Mall
rattle their cups full of change a little bit harder
eyes inflamed with loss and loneliness
A local musician and friend once noted, Why do we tend to look over men
and women at their life’s lowest point?
Smiles blossom when Salvation Army bell ringers outside Walgreens and Pick ‘N Saves
bombards our ears and ring out hope for the less fortunate

Few blocks down Third Ward manifests into a Van Gogh masterpiece when it snows
Milwaukee Public Market’s fluorescent red lights are a little bit brighter
Semi-trucks roll over Third Ward’s nineteenth-century structure
And makes the cracked concrete ensemble hum holiday hymns

Next time you and your lovers and homies stroll through for a gallery opening,
fancy dinner, or just a cup of caffeinated noir
Remember wait for the snowfall
ignore the galaxies of black gum stuck to the sidewalk
And point your boombox ears toward the street pavement
the spirit of Milwaukee will be singing for you

Here Milwaukee’s spirit digs up winter’s brittle bones and plays croquet with the stars
Okay…maybe pool, ‘cause this city can be a bit of a hustler
If this beer brewed metropolis was a person,
She’d be a sister with an afro and a Clay Matthews jersey
fighting White privilege on Water Street with a Black Panther fist

She’d dress up as Santa Claus
And leave presents on front porches of Harambee and 53206 homes
Gentrification in Walker’s Point would vanish with one SNAP of her fingers
She’d crash through the window of every underground brothel
and fight human traffickers with a pair of candy cane-stripped nun chucks
take the young queens home from sexual abuse on a horse pulled carriage ride

She’d climb light poles and spray paint Unity over every Holton Street sign
the red graffiti letters would bleed desegregation
She’d take her son to Red Arrow Park to see the holiday tree lighting
And tell him a story about a Black man who was shot by a crooked cop fourteen times

She’d ride her sleigh of friendly pit bulls one-handed
sip a can of Milwaukee Best in the other, a Newport burning on side her lip
soar over and ripple Lake Michigan’s blue
Crash land downtown in the middle of Dontre Hamilton Park’s ice rink
Black, Brown, and caramel faced tots would run up in cute little mittens, hats,
and coats as she gives them a present
Crooked cops probably would park on Water Street
lean back against the hoods of their black and white machines
And scuff at such a beautiful sight
But no
This city cannot be one crime fighting miracle worker
It takes all six-hundred thousand of us
All nearly six million Wisconsinites to cultivate change whether Democrat
or Republican

If we can lift cans of ale watching the Packers-Bears rival
we can lift utensils to help feed the homeless
We all have a voice and ability to lend a helping hand for organizing
and building community

Remember to spread the love this new year, Merry Christmas, Milwaukee-

Written: 11/30/15 Mon.-12/5/15 Sat.