The Mahogany Urban Poetry Series Returns

Words by Nicole Martinez | Photo by Domonick Porras

The city of trees is in the midst of planting a new seed. The Mahogany Urban Poetry Series, a popular venue in the past, has re-sprouted just in time for those relaxing, warm summer nights. Promising to host live poetry, exceptional music and feature a wide range of talented artists and people, it seems right that a venue for spoken word and expression should speak for itself. Here is what weekly hosts Khiry Moore and DJ Rock Bottom had to say.

What is Mahogany?
Khiry Moore: Mahogany is a collaboration of music, spoken word, and just a collection of people who come together looking for alternatives to the night. It’s an intelligent vibe. It’s like the soul of Sacramento.
DJ Rock Bottom: It’s evolved into various artists and art forms that come together for the progression of the Sacramento scene. Poetry is the emphasis but it’s never opposed to any other art form. We do a little of everything.

Why is it called Mahogany?
KM: Good question. No one knows. When Mahogany started, there had already been different venues going. Every time a new endeavor was started, it was on a different level to what we had prior. So with Mahogany, the idea is that like a tree it grows. Like the rings inside the trunk, you can see where it started and how it matures. And it’s solid so it endures. Plus, I like the wood grain.

When and how did it start? Give us a little background.
KM: When urban poetry first hit the scene a venue was being put on by Conscious Vibes called Mood Swings at the Country Club Lanes. This was back about 1996. After that it moved to a spot called Off Broadway located off Broadway. That spot got bought out and I was fortunate enough to be a part of a group who started a new poetry venue known as The Blue Room. It was with Sean King, Angelo Williams, Marianna, Ifa, Cleo and other poets. It was probably one of the most inspirational venues ever! After that, members of the group branched out and put on more venues with mixed success. Here entered Felix, at that time owner of the Jamaica House. He offered up his spot as a venue to me and so Mahogany was born. This was in 2001. It went on for five years until 2006 when the owners of Sweet Fingers, who bought the Jamaica House, decided to pack up and move to the Bay Area. With that, the venue that kept the poetry flame alive for the urban community ended.

What happened after it stopped and why is it back now?
KM: We tried to keep it going. Flo Real and I founded Vibe Sessions the day after Mahogany closed. Flo runs that now, and I opened a few other venues after that. There was Mics and Moods [Capitol Garage], The Blackstar Lounge [Tunel 21], and most recently The Social [Sol Collective]. The last venue was on the rise, but a fire happened and left the building not fit for use. I was just gonna stop but Zion, the owner of Queen Sheba Restaurant, in the Old Jamaica House/Sweet Fingers’ building, called me up. She told me everyone has been telling her to call me so we can have poetry there again.

DJ Rock Bottom, how did you get connected as the house DJ?
RB: When I came here to Sacramento, it was already Mahogany. I came here from Indiana in 2001. In 2002, I started writing poetry and I would go to different venues. Mahogany is the only one that stood the test of time. I started writing and performing more, then I got into DJing. I started DJing in 2004 and Mahogany is the first place where I got my name. I guess the rest is history.

What’s a typical night like?
KM: Expect some of the old vibe, with a new twist on it. We plan on starting and ending early, with DJ Rock Bottom spinning music from 8 p.m. until 9 p.m., then we will start open mic at 9 p.m., the feature will perform at 10 p.m., and we’ll be done by 11 p.m.. Zion, has also agreed to provide a special low cost menu for poetry night.

DJ Rock Bottom, you are a big part of what makes up the night. What can you say about the music?

RB: Let’s just say it is a unique blend of music that you won’t hear unless I play it for you. It’s music the radio is scared to play.

How are you each feeling now that Mahogany is back?
KM: Optimistic! We have a new energy, a new crew of people helping out, and a new structure. It is no longer a one-man show and I don’t want it to be. We have a second chance. We can still hear the echo of what happened here before. We still here the echo of the spirit of the room as it was before. Coming back, I realize the significance of the venue.
RB: I have this wish that people would get out their box and try something different for a chance. Just try something new. Quit being content.

What drives the two of you to keep it up? Why do you do it?
KM: I really think this is a calling. It’s not something of me. It’s not like I do it. I’m being asked to do it. For me, coming here is like coming home.
RB: I feel like I’m the DJ for the revolution. I feel it is my duty as a DJ to give people more to the music. I’m very passionate at what I do and until I see more being done, I won’t stop, but I’d be more satisfied. I love music. I love sharing.

What is your favorite part about it?
KM: When people get inspired to write poetry or inspired by the venue to write or do anything. And, hearing people talk about the venue. I just want to encourage people to go beyond the open mic.
RB: My ego says it’s to hear myself DJ [laughs] and the response of the crowd when I play music. Then there is the poetry itself and the food.

What is your vision for the venue?
KM: Funding for special events, showcases and to become a go to place for poetry. Sacramento is a growing city. There is a need for a cultural seed. I’d like to think of us as a center for that cultural seed. Our vision is to inspire and pass it on to a younger generation.
RB: I’m here to be the music for the vision.

What do you want to say or tell people about it?
KM: Support! I want people to know we are sincere. We put our whole lives around having this venue. It’s not about money. It’s more about what’s necessary.
RB: Use your voice. That’s what it was made for. And”¦ DJ Rock Bottom for President!