Venice Beach – Trayvon Martin Spoken Word Performance

To supplement the pieces of Folklore that I have taken from my personal experiences and environment, I decided to head to Venice beach to pick up some performances from complete strangers. As you may know, Venice is home to hundreds of street performers, many of which have never taken a class to hone their specific skills.  I had a lot to choose from for this collection, so I decided to approach the performers whose performances would be most effectively transferred from reality to paper.

While dancers were everywhere, my phone camera did not have the capacity to effectively record their movements (upgrading to an iphone as soon as finances allow). I was, however, able to stand near a crowd of “spoken word” artists. There was a collection of 5-8 of them, standing on the pier with a crowd of nearly 30.

As I approached, I noticed that some of the performers were holding posters featuring the face of a teenage African American boy. The posters read “Justice for Trayvon”. After asking a few of the crowd members what was this gathering was all about, I learned that an African American 17 year old was shot and killed as part of an alleged hate crime.

I turned my attention to the spoken word performers on the pier. One of the most passionate speakers really grabbed my attention. He spoke from the heart about the evil nature of this and similar acts, and how there is simply not enough media coverage on these topics. I wrote down a brief portion of the passage he said, as pure, orally performed, folklore. I tried to get everything he said, but he was slurring a lot of his words and speaking with poor grammar. He might have been drunk, though what I have below should capture the jist of it.


We’re the people of this plain city.

We live we fight we sing so free.

How do we all sit by so comfortably

When boys die for a man’s hate?

What makes a good society?

Not us. Not this. This is dead.

Our connection is dead.

Our sensation of God’s love is dead.

Our community is dead.

The only way to bring it back

Is to see this boy be dead.


After he finished and another man began to speak, I walked up to him and told him about my assignment. He glady signed the release form, and asked that I title this post after Trayvon Martin in order to raise awareness for racially-backed murders.

This is without a doubt the most powerful piece of folklore that I collected for this assignment. To this point in my collecting process, I had not seen folklore truly move people at a deep emotional level. Oral spontaneous performances such as this one possess the unique quality of being completely from the heart of the performer.