Open mic poetry performance -- Destiny Hemphill

There are many captivating voices throughout our world. Each voice provides the listener with an experience that obliges them to sit up, and listen. These voices speak to the setting and experiences of their own individual world. We often look to these voices for guidance about how to respond to our emotions, oppression, joy, or faith. Destiny  Hemphill, a poet and student at Duke University, embodies these qualities and more, which makes her voice captivating. There are multiple components to the beauty and enchantment of Destiny’s voice. This exhibit seeks to focus on her use of audience participation, preacher-like presentation, and phrase repetition.

Our captivating voice is a performer, she speaks at open mic events as both an MC and a performer. During her opening duties, she highly encourages audience participation. In the excerpt below, she describes appropriate ways for a listener to show appreciation for a performer. She immediately elicits a response. People in the crowd laugh when she makes a statement about vampires, people who take but do not give back. Then, later in the show, they continue to participate in ways she has described as acceptable. So, it seems, she is immediately creating a platform for the audience to execute their duties of engagement. This same idea, prompting a group of people to be vocal about their appreciation of a subject, is a common practice throughout preaching. As shown in the excerpt below, pastors often encourage their congregation to make noise in their “praise” of God. It’s a form of worship and, therefore, an ideal behavior. Both our captivating voice and the preacher emphasize that participation is a cultural norm in their space of presentation. To truly be a part of the community, listeners must do something to give back and show that they are moved. This is important because it provides backing to the relevance of the necessity of participation.

Outside of her ability to get a body of people to respond to her desires for them, Destiny’s strength as a speaker comes from her ability to present her poems in a preacher-like fashion. In their most basic sense, religious speakers are intended to teach principles to a group of people that grows them close to their greater purpose (which in this case is God). I feel Destiny does just that. In her poems she creates a sort of teaching platform by presenting her own testimony about the dangers of tainted love. She reminds herself, and the audience, of the importance of knowing to whom you belong because it has implications in understanding the immensity of your value. So, the greater purpose of self-realization is presented. Through making an example of herself, she again creates a setting where that change is now acceptable and a cultural norm. She also uses common religious symbols and phrases which further tethers her performance to that of a preacher. In the excerpt below she uses the phrase “I am the daughter of a prophetess and a kingdom”. In the Christian tradition, followers are described as being children of a God who has a kingdom. Furthermore, prophets are people who speak of the future conditions of God’s people. So, to be related to either of these bodies (kingdom or prophetess) would imply an inherent connection with the divine. This divine connection and teaching ability underscore the religious theme which emphasizes Destiny’s abilities.

She also uses repetition technique to emphasize statements, or parts of statements. In the excerpt below, she repeats “don’t you know” at the beginning of a few phrases. This draws attention to the questioning that occurs in one’s mind when trying to understand a hurtful situation. She also repeats “I’m gonna have to run back to myself”. This seems to be a reminder and declaration that she will now become the end goal instead of someone who does not appreciate her worth. This same technique is commonly used in religious settings. In the excerpt below, the pastor repeats the phrase “a good God”.  By repeating a phrase, the speaker places an emphasis on its importance. It does not necessarily have to be a new concept. The goodness of God is often spoken of and there is often discussion of self-worth. However, repetition keys the audience to place extra focus on the repeated phrases, which makes the speaker all the more captivating. Repetition also creates a cohesiveness in presentation that creates a sense of intentionality.

Destiny understands the necessity of creating a space where audience members can feel comfortable to interact. She also has a great ability to teach through self experience. Finally, by using a repetition technique, she indicates what ideas should be focused on in any piece of work. These qualities, and more, are what will allow Destiny’s voice to continually captivate audiences

By Symonne Singleton