Albuquerque’s Hip Hop Poet Laureate Speaks At Tech
SOCORRO, N.M. April 9, 2013 – New Mexico Tech welcomes the poet laureate of Albuquerque to campus for a workshop and poetry reading to commemorate National Poetry Month.
Hakim Bellamy, who recently released Swear, a new collection of poems, will give an tutorial brainstorming session with Tech students at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 10, at the Skeen Library, followed by a poetry reading and book signing at 7 p.m. and reception with snacks. The event is free and open to all.
Hakim Bellamy and his son.
Hakim Bellamy and his son.
This event is sponsored by Academic Affairs and the Department of Communication, Liberal Arts, Social Sciences in celebration of April as National Poetry Month.
Bellamy, 34, is one of the new breed of poets. An African-American from Philadelphia, he developed a love of poetry from a childhood filled with hip-hop and other urban art forms.
“Some people think that hip hop takes our children away from literature,” Bellamy said. “But for me, it took me to literature. My friends and I were rhyming and, to become better, I knew I had to have a better grasp of language.”
Bellamy started performing as a youngster, but never called himself a poet until moving to Albuquerque in 2005. He quickly made a name for himself. He was a member of Team Albuquerque, the 2005 National Poetry Slam Champs in his first year of poetry slam. A year later as a member of Team UNM, he was the individual champ at the 2006 College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational Champs.
“Usually, poet laureates are at the end of their careers,” Bellamy said. “This means a lot to me. It’s nice to get recognition early in my career.”
Bellamy has been teaching and performing for many years, but wasn’t exactly raking in the dough. He had started considering getting an 8-to-5 job. He was sacrificing time with his family and wondering if there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Then, he was selected as Albuquerque’s poet laureate.
“This is what I’m going to be,” he said. “I’m going to be a poet – for better or worse.”
Bellamy writes about a variety of topics, including New Mexico, race, and culture. His favorite topic, however, is his five-year-old son, who he calls his miracle.
He said his workshops are akin to brainstorming sessions. He’ll ask participants to come up with topics and he’ll encourage budding writers to develop novel approaches to standard topics.
“Love or depression … there’s a million poems about those,” he said. “How can we talk about it differently? How do we approach the topic? Maybe if I give my dog a voice – that’s entertainment. … That’s a good vehicle for your poem. If you can get that far, the poem writes itself.”
He won the City Grand Slam Championship in Albuquerque (2005) and in Silver City (2008) as well as three consecutive University of New Mexico LOBOSLAM titles.
His poetry has been published in Albuquerque inner-city buses as a winner of the RouteWords Competition (2005). He’s been published in the Harwood Anthology (2006), the Earthships Anthology (2007), Sin Fronteras Journal (2008), A Bigger Boat published by UNM Press (2008), Looking Back at Place (2008), Malpais Review (2011) and How to … .Multiple Perspectives on Creating a Garden, a Life, Relationships and Community (2011). In January of 2007, Bellamy was recognized as an honorable mention for the University of New Mexico Paul Bartlett Re Peace Prize for his work as a community organizer and journalist.
Hakim has acted for both stage and screen, and makes more music with his poetry nowadays as a songwriter, emcee and vocalist. Hakim was recently bestowed the populist honor of “Best Poet” by the Local iQ (Smart List) in 2010 and 2011 and by the Alibi (Best of Burque) for 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.
Hakim regularly works with, workshops and works for the many youth poets of this city via presentations at schools, non-profits and community organizations across the state of New Mexico. He recently left his position as Strategic Communications Director at the Media Literacy Project to devote himself full-time to his art. Visit Hakim at www.hakimbe.com.
Bellamy is the co-creator, along with Carlos Contreras and Colin “Diles” Hazelbaker, of the multimedia hip hop theater production Urban Verbs: Hip-Hop Conservatory & Theater, which has been staged throughout the country. He facilitates youth writing workshops for schools and community organizations in New Mexico and beyond. Having recently released his first book, Swear, Hakim is currently finishing his master’s in communications and journalism at the University of New Mexico. He is founding president of Beyond Poetry LLC.
Bellamy’s journey as a poet has come full circle as of late, wearing the hat of musician. He is equal parts musical artist, archivist and archeologist. He digs music. Piano lessons, recitals and many years singing in the church choir prepared him for the funk-infused, experimental-yet-melodic brand of hip hop that he produces today with creative partner Colin “Diles” Hazelbaker. In recent years, he’s shared the musical stage with Zion-I, The Wailers, The Last Poets, Amiri Baraka, Cecil Taylor & Blacklisted Individuals.
As an actor, Bellamy has grown his talent on both the screen and the stage. He made a cameo in the independent film Romeo & Juliet Vs. The Living Dead (2009) and has made multiple appearances in local commercials (television and radio). He has done voice work for television and radio, worked for two years as a radio journalist at KUNM and has been cast as an extra in films and TV shows, such as Gamer (2009), Swing Vote (2009) and Crash the Television Series (2010).
On the stage he was cast in a major role in the 2009 Albuquerque production of The Exonerated, produced by NMRepeal.org. In the summer of 2011, he secured a major role as the Friar in the Vortex Theater’s Summer Shakespeare Festival production of Romeo & Juliet for a 14-show run. He has since co-written and starred in Urban Verbs: Hip Hop Conservatory & Theater with his creative partner Carlos Contreras, currently booking tour dates for summer of 2013. He also has the lead role in the current Fusion Theater production of “Clybourne Park,” which won the Tony, Pulitzer and Olivier awards in 2011.
– NMT –
By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech