Locals bond together to support fellow poet with kidney condition

Locals bond together to support fellow poet with kidney condition

By Molly Fleming, Staff Writer

Vickie McGee is a 28-year-old Rockford native, a mother of four and a published poet currently living in Beloit, Wis. At age 13, she was diagnosed with a kidney disease (glamaralasclorosis). In October of 2002, McGee’s kidneys failed completely and she is presently on dialysis. Unfortunately due to various conditions, she cannot undergo a kidney transplant until she loses more weight. She only has a few pounds left to go before she will be even placed on the waiting list—which as most know, does not guarantee the receiving of the organ in always a timely manner. In light of her condition, friend and fellow poet Cullen Balch (a.k.a. “The Mutinous Mutt”) has organized a fund raising event Saturday, June 28, at Mary’s Place to help with costs of McGee’s Treatment.

Poetic Justice, as the event is called, will features five poets, four visual artists and music by DJ We’veOne. McGee will be present to give readings, followed by Jeffrey Williams, Debra Jo Howard and Chris Simms, all hosted by Balch. An open mic session will also be presented for audience poets and verbal artists throughout the evening. The flyers advertising the event read in fine print: “Literature may be dead, but the spoken word is alive and well.” In many cases, this is true, although it’s doubtful that any reporter can completely agree with the first statement. But these five poets definitely want to show the Rockford area what they can do with just themselves and a mic.

Balch is a 26-year-old resident who works in the silkscreen industry as a freelance illustrator and designer. He is the 2003 Rockford citywide poetry slam champion and has been writing and involved with readings since high school. His work typically follows political and social themes; but don’t let that deter you. His passion for the spoken word and his intense expressiveness will definitely bring the evening together for a good cause. The title he chose for the event generally sums up his philosophy towards life presently; and within the boundaries of life, writing and performing. He chose poets to read who he feels appeal to everyone and will encourage those in attendance to monetarily help his friend McGee.

Jeffrey Williams is a Rockford native who was strongly influenced by Run DMC, Public Enemy and The Beastie Boys. He had very little formal education in verse, but seems to have done all right within the arena of writing. I received a sample of his work via email, and although I had to read it over a few times to latch on to the accurate rhythm, it was concise and expressive with a great groove to it.

Debra Jo Howard is very well known in the area for her published works Soulsightful and novel, Polished Armor. She owns that great little art store across from Minglewood on Jefferson St., Mama’s Motif, and is currently working on her third and fourth book to be completed by the end of 2003.

Chris Simms has a name that needs no introduction or background. He has been a working poet in the area for years and been involved with most of the spoken word projects in the Rockford area, and receives recognition and respect from nearly everyone in the poetry scene.

A general outline of the evening includes a performance by Victor Villalobos (DJ We’veOne) spinning jazz and spoken word at 9ish, followed by Balch’s introductory remarks. Around 10 p.m., all poets will give a reading for about 15 minutes each, followed by an intermission with more music by DJ We’veOne. At about midnight, the open forum will begin, with readings by the featured poets interspersed among the audience’s response. After 1 a.m., a roundtable hip-hop reading will be hosted while DJ We’veOne spins with featured poets and any emcees in attendance. Artwork by Jerry Dukes, Bob Williams, Dr. HellNaw and Balch will be displayed at the back of the stage and various locations.

Recently there has been much in the press regarding people with kidney and other organ conditions. It seems that there is a rise of debilitating diseases in the 21st century, and community support seems to be the best medicine. For a mere $3, you can join your community to support and ease the costs of care for a locally involved woman. Her condition is serious, but the response from her friends and family is touching and truly heartwarming to witness as they come together on her behalf. For more information, call Mary’s Place at 962-7944.

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