BALTIMORE, Md. – The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture (The Lewis Museum) – a Smithsonian Affiliate – today announced Danny Simmons – the prolific artist, poet, and philanthropist who co-created the hit HBO series Def Poetry Jam – will bring his critically acclaimed WordSmith series to Baltimore on Friday, September 22nd. These intimate performances feature world renowned musicians paired with icons from the world of poetry, delivered against a backdrop of curated visuals featuring established and emerging artists. The Baltimore installment aligns with the city’s celebration of Artscape and will honor lauded artist Derrick Adams for the impact he has made locally and nationally on the cultural economy. The event also serves as a homecoming for Simmons who is Adams’ first cousin and spent summers with his family in Baltimore.
“The Lewis Museum is excited to have this opportunity to welcome home one of the foremost arts patrons and contributors to the culture in Danny Simmons,” said Drew Hawkins, Board Chair for The Lewis Museum. “It is more than fitting that WordSmith Baltimore coincides with Artscape and celebrates Derrick Adams as all three embody the significant historical, cultural, and economic contributions Black Baltimore has made to the State and to our country.”
Poetry has been and continues to be experiencing a renaissance. Simmons recognized this several years ago in founding Def Poetry Jam which was responsible for discovering many young talented poets and visual artists, several of whom went on to fame, including Saul Williams, Kehinde Wiley, and Wangechi Mutu. WordSmith Baltimore revisits this format and will feature performances by bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma’s Band of Resistance, a quartet that will include guitarist Jake Morelli, Marc Cary on keyboard, and percussionist Wes Watkins. They will also serve as the evening’s house band, backing Simmons, vocalist and emcee Lezlie Harrison, guitarist/vocalist Khemist, and an assemblage of Def Poetry Jam veterans including, Toni Blackman, Derick D. Cross, Kraal “Kayo” Charles and Bonafide Rojas. The evening will also include a performance by Baltimore Slam Team.
“WordSmith is a unique experience,” said Simmons. “The blending of visual art poetry and live music makes not only a feast for your mind and ears but the addition of the art makes the total experience a feast for your soul. WordSmith is the 21st century inevitable evolution of Def Poetry.”
Baltimore-native Derrick Adams has become one of the most notable advocates for expanding the conversation on arts and culture to include its role as an economic sector and an avenue to stimulate economic prosperity. As an artist, Adams celebrates and expands the dialogue around contemporary Black life and culture through scenes of normalcy and perseverance. He has developed an iconography of joy, leisure, and the pursuit of happiness within a practice that encompasses paintings, sculptures, collages, performances, videos, and public projects. Adams synthesizes representational imagery with planar Cubist geometry to produce multifaceted figures and faces that address the richness of the Black experience.
In 2022, Adams established Charm City Cultural Cultivation, an organization to support and encourage underserved communities in the city of Baltimore through events conducted by three entities: The Last Resort Artist Retreat, a residency program that subscribes to the concept of leisure as therapy for the Black creative; The Black Baltimore Digital Database, a collaborative counter-institutional space for collecting, storing, and safekeeping the data of local archival initiatives; and Zora’s Den, an online community of Black women writers started in January 2017, which has since expanded into in-person writing workshops, a writers’ circle, and a monthly reading series that strive to promote instruction, support, and social engagement.
In keeping with the City’s celebration of its vast community of visual artists, WordSmith Baltimore will also shine a light on seven creatives assembled by Alma Roberts, a public health advocate-turned-abstract painter who serves as a member of both The Lewis Museum’s Board of Directors and the Baltimore Public Art Commission that oversees and approves the installation and maintenance of public art throughout the city. The evening will include a digital display of works by Anita Henley Carrington, Ram Sueno, Tanya Bracey, Erasto Curtis Matthews, Thomas Dade and Marie Antoinette Diaw.
WordSmith Baltimore is made possible through the support of Verizon with additional support from The Roberts Family Fund. Tickets are $20 for members and $25 for non-members and can be purchased at https://bit.ly/wordsmithbaltimore.
About the Reginald F. Lewis Museum
Located two blocks from Inner Harbor in Downtown Baltimore, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture – a Smithsonian Affiliate – documents, interprets, and preserves the complex experiences, contributions, and culture of Black people. It serves as a catalyst of sustained change by providing robust programs and exhibitions and bold conversations that educate and challenge. Founded in 2005, the 82,000-square-foot facility accommodates over 13,000 square feet of permanent and temporary exhibition space, hosting more than 11,000 objects in our permanent collection, special exhibitions, educational programs, and public events. For up-to-date information regarding programs and exhibits and to plan your timed admission, visit www.lewismuseum.org, or follow us on Instagram and Twitter at @LewisMuseum or on Facebook @RFLewisMuseum.