Jill Scott Joins ‘Def Poetry Jam’ Show Supporting COVID-19 Relief
Paras Griffin

After spending three hours healing our souls with Erykah Badu, Jill Scott is turning her good vibes towards the city of Newark. The Grammy award-winning singer, actress and poet will be headlining Healing, Power & Poetry, a Def Poetry Jam reunion event that will be live-streamed on Twitch and Facebook. 

On Saturday, May 23, she will be joined by the city’s mayor Ras Baraka, a fellow poet who’s gaining national attention for ending his daily pandemic briefings with uplifting poems. His father Amiri Baraka, respected author and former poet laureate of New Jersey, appeared on the original Def Poetry Jam.

Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

Malcolm-Jamal Warner, another Def Poetry Jam alum, will appear as well. They will be joined by Jasmine Mans, Brandon “Real Talk” Alexander, Elisabet Velasquez and others; they are 50 poets who will perform. 

The event will benefit Newark Symphony Hall’s #EmbraceNewark initiative. While many arts organizations are solely focused on staying afloat in a rough philanthropic climate, Newark Symphony Hall is galvanizing support for those on the frontline of the pandemic and responding to community needs by donating food and health services.

“We created #EmbraceNewark as an artist activated relief and wellness initiative during COVID-19 pandemic,” said Taneshia Nash Laird, President & CEO of Newark Symphony Hall. 

Danny Simmons, Def Poetry Jam Co-creator and chairman of Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation said, “The goal of our Def Poetry Jam streaming event is to raise funds to provide basic needs for members of Newark, NJ’s vulnerable and underserved community.”

According to Nash Laird, so far the initiative has managed to facilitate the distribution of “tens of thousands of pieces of PPE,” including “nine thousand N95 masks.” 

For 95 years, Newark Symphony Hall, a national landmark, has had its community show up and now they are showing up for them. “Our idea here is that Newark Symphony Hall can be a vehicle for wellness and hope, she continued. “We are a Black women-led organization with a Black staff and I’m gonna tell you this staff has hustled despite the losses.” 

“We’ve had personal losses,” she added. “We not only lost three former staff members, but we also have two of my management staff who lost six family members between them. So this is very personal for us.” 

Healing, Power & Poetry, a Def Poetry Jam reunion event will be simulcast on Newark, New Jersey’s municipal access channel NWK 78.


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