Nuyorican Poets Cafe

By Jared Serrano

Dim lights, music, massive crowds and of course talent. The Nuyorican Poets Cafe is the place to be on a Friday night. Many average Joes go on that stage every Monday and Wednesday for open mic, however, on Fridays the spectacle really happens with many special guests.

Many people have stepped on the cafe’s stage and used it as a launching pad for their careers. Some artists include Mwalim, Esmeralda Santiago, Amiri Baraka, Ishmael Reed, Ntozake Shange, ‘Big Brother Wayne’ Williams, Tantra Zawadi, Giannina Braschi, Zoraida Santiago, Keven Powell, Cheryl B and Daniel Dumile.

Located on the Lower East Side, the cafe was founded by Miguel Algarin, Miguel Pinero, and Bimbo Rivas in Algarin’s East Village apartment in 1973. Its philosophy: “We must listen to one another. We must respect one another’s habits and we must share the truth and the integrity that the voice of the poet so generously provides.”

People from different walks of life perform there. On September 22, many of the poets such as “The Paragraph,” “The Captain,” and Allihea Thomas spoke about topics that were both relatable and uncomfortable to some. For instance, “The Paragraph” recited various poems talking about gentrification, and the struggle of the average African American man. Allihea Thomas spoke of her struggle with her sexuality and “The Captain” talked about the U.S. prison system. Even though the Nuyorican Poets Cafe draws a crowd as diverse as the city’s population, the crowd seemed to understand where those poets were coming from.

Allihea Thomas

“The Nuyorican Poets Cafe brings people together, it is the one constant in my life where I know for sure will make me happy every Monday, Wednesday and Friday,” said “The Paragraph,” 27, who has been performing at the cafe for several years. “The best decision I’ve ever made was coming to the Nuyorican Poets Cafe first as a member of the audience, lastly as a performer.”

Others however, come to the Nuyorican Poets Cafe to meet new people. “At first I was coming to the cafe because of my love for poetry, but then I started meeting new people each time and it was the dopest thing ever,” said Allihea Thomas, 21, who started frequenting the cafe a year ago. “It was through meeting new people and having them read my poems where they gave me the confidence to go out on that stage and perform, which was something I thought I could never do.”

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