by Steffany Overby
On October 29th, 2015 we attempted to do the impossible…the Neo Soul family did our best to thank Herman Mason III, the founder of Neo Soul Poetry Lounge, for his 12 1/2 years of commitment to our home. I say it is impossible because it is hard to find the words to express fully our gratitude and love, but I think we came pretty close. For those of you that were not able to attend I hope that these quotes might help you capture the moment and resonate with your own feelings/experiences over the years.
Mario Hollins was the host for this portion of the night and he did a great job of introducing each person that wanted to speak. First up was Sunni Soper who shared that Neo Soul was her 1st time on the mic EVER (and slamming all at the same time) and she would not have been a “spoken word artist at all” with out Herman and Neo Soul. Ilbersalle Fallon shared his story of how Neo Soul was the catalyst in his relationship with Kelene Blake and moving to Austin, TX when he saw her for the 1st time on the mic when he was visiting from Houston and how he knew “I had to speak to her.” (you can say aww…I know I did.) Teresa Johnson gave the beautiful illustration of how hard it is to “pick up a home and move it” and talked about how Herman was the “Dad taking care of family” doing this smoothly each time so that Teresa Johnson (and all of us poets) could just be “a kid in the backyard and enjoy playing” without knowing the stressors it took to make it possible. *snaps* Kelene Blake shared when she 1st came to Neo Soul how her friend told BFran to get her on the mic…and he did…and thereafter Neo Soul became “more of a home to me than home” and how no matter how much Herman may have had to haul in his car or what time it was he would always “find somewhere to fit me in” making sure that Kelene had the ride she needed to be at our event without the worries of how she would get home. I, Steffany Overby, got on the mic. I will just quote what Mario said about me since I don’t remember the words from the tears “I don’t know what she said but it was all love.” After all my emotions, Angie did what she does best and gave some comic relief with her straightforward honesty (she pointed out he is only retiring and not dying so need to cry) and claimed “the best goodbye he’s getting tonight” with the fine liquor she bestowed on Herman as thanks and appreciation. In all seriousness, I hope we hold true to Angie’s statement “Thank Herman for creating something I love and we hope to carry on his legacy and not disgrace his name.” Dora aka Gift told Herman “you are a damn good DJ” but more importantly that he “never gave up but gave us a courage to keep going.” If you aren’t all in your feelings brace yourself… because Erica Mason was up next. Herman’s sister told us all that “I do what I do partly because of him.” Chandra Washington let it be known that Herman will forever be a “down brother” in her eyes and gave him a copy of her book No Mistake: Journey to Self-Acceptance after telling the story of how Herman encouraged her writing. Claudia Hernandez got on the mic (1st time I ever saw it happen but she made it worth the wait) to appreciate “Uncle Grampa Herman” and spoke of his integrity and character because he has “run a poetry venue for 12 years when don’t even do poetry.” Yaas! Speaking of poetry and Herman, Jewelz got up and told how she started sharing on the mic because she saw Herman perform his famous “roses are red” and it helped her know “if Herman can do that I can get on the mic.” She gave Herman props as he has “owned the hell out of Neo for this long.” Brian Francis spoke the truth that “there would be no BFran without Herman…this guy right here (referring to himself) and these words wouldn’t exist without this guy (referring to Herman.)” I have to include that he did get another dig at “DJ Cap Locks” with their ongoing hair banter and feud/envy “I thought you would change your hairstyle by now.” I will take this moment to note that BFran motioned that Herman doesn’t have to ever pay to get into Neo…which Christopher Michael quickly 2nd and was instantaneously ruled a majority vote by all executive council members present. Now it has been unofficially officially documented in the Soul Report for us to refer to forever and always (or until Facebook somehow deletes these Notes….) Mario briefly shared how Herman and Neo Soul was instrumental in “so many strides” in his personal life and career. I know I definitely understood what Shanitria Harris meant when she said Herman “shaped me into someone I am proud to be” and that he was “that man to give me that push.” *big hug* Danny Strack gave a quick testimony of knowing from first hand experience with being the Slam Master for APS that Neo Soul has flourished for so long under Herman’s care because “you do out of passion and love.”
And just like that “with no sorbet appetizer poet we jumped right into SLAM!”
Scores were tallied by the BESTEST score keeper and timer EVER Ilbersalle and our Slam ended with: 3rd place Kelene…2nd place SC Says…and Christopher Michael in 1st place after a straight up 30.0 in the second round.
Many thanks to the judges of the night that were consistent in their scoring despite the pressure of the crowd. We all know it’s not an easy job and poets appreciate your honesty when Slamming. I hope that if anyone reads this and didn’t get a chance to attend in person you might take the time to give Herman and South Flavas the much deserved love and appreciation in your own way. WE LOVE YOU HERMAN!!! *biggest hug* Tomorrow night’s Neo Soul is New Sh** at Mr. Catfish & More…