Black History Month Celebration: Kurtis Lamkin

Kurtis Lamkin is a contemporary Black American Poet, originally from Philadelphia and now living in Charleston South Carolina. 

Lamkin is often referred to as a Griot poet — a poet who’s just as often thought of as a musician or oral storyteller. 

When Lamkin performs, he accompanies himself with a West African instrument called a Kora.  The Kora is a 21-stringed instrument that sort of looks like a lute and sounds like a harp.

Lamkin is a sort of a modern-day bard, with many words loaded, with pointed satire and wit, offering commentary and critique of contemporary events, culture, and community.

Lamkin’s poems play with the meaning and sounds of words that evolve into compositions that are as much about creating a feeling as anything else.

The following poem by Kurtis Lamkin is called “Jump Mama.”

pretty summer day
grammama sittin on her porch
rockin her grandbaby in her wide lap
ol men sittin in their lincoln
tastin and talkin and talkin and tastin
young boys on the corner
milkin a yak yak wild hands baggy pants
young girls halfway up the block
jumpin that double dutch
singin their song
kenny kana paula
be on time
cause school begins
at a quarter to nine
jump one two three and aaaaaaah. . .

round the corner comes
this young woman
draggin herself heavy home from work
she sees the young boys
sees the old men
but when she sees the girls she just starts smilin
she says let me get a little bit of that
they say you can’t jump
you too old

why they say that
o, why they say that

she says tanya you hold my work bag
chaniqua come over here girl i want you to hold my
josie could you hold my grocery bag
kebé take my purse
she starts bobbin her head, jackin her arms
tryin to catch the rhythm of the ropes
and when she jumps inside those turning loops
the girls crowd her sing their song
kenny kana paula
be on time
cause school begins
at a quarter to nine
jump one two three and
she jumps on one leg — aaaaah
she dances sassy saucy — aaaaah
jump for the girls mama
jump for the stars mama
jump for the young boys sayin
jump mama! jump mama!
jump for the old woman sayin — aww, go head baby

and what the young girls say
what the young girls say