Voices

Alum Update: Christopher D. Sims

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As the new year proceeds, and as I look towards a year of arts, culture, and all that those things encompass, I move forward knowing there is still much more to do. Combining social justice and creativity has been a testament to my relentless fire to form relationships and co conspire as a change agent.

What will change are venues I will find myself in sharing a sermon or a spoken word poem full of passion and experience. But I am finding new ways to communicate who I am as a performer, a poet, an expert in various music genres. I am also finding myself bringing an instrument along with me to places where I know there is magic in being creative, expressive.

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What I am seeing as I peer into 2020 are opportunities to teach, guide, encourage, and
create platforms for others to share their souls, their artistic abilities. The first opportunity is teaching a workshop in my hometown of Rockford, IL at Womanspace of Rockford, IL. The title of the workshop is Social Justice Poetry Writing Workshop. A daylong workshop, I will guide writers and poets in the art of creative writing with social justice messages.

Following the Woman’s March and during Black History Month, this a great time to help people focus on their voices and what they have meaningful to offer our community and the world. I am especially looking forward to hearing what the women of the workshop have to say – especially the younger women who will participate.

I have a new audio project I created with Chicago producer the6thtrumpet aka Ricky White. We’re calling this project Illinois Statesmen. It is in our own way representing the state of Illinois with poetry, rhymes, and music that come out of the crevices of the “Land of Lincoln.” It is ambitious project that I actually started on while I was attending the University of Memphis in Memphis, TN last semester.

Justice Poetry! Is also a project that I am looking forward to sharing with the masses. It is
a book of poetry co-written with Unitarian minister Rev. David Breeden – one of my most reliable comrades and conspirators in regards to social justice work. I have not published a book in several years so it is exciting to produce something that keeps the conversations and the learning going on to combat all of the isms that are in our way as we work towards liberation and equity.

I take the word conspirator seriously. As I write these words I am imagining that I type with and for all of the activists, organizers, rappers, poets, dancers, painters, videographers, and sculptors who are using their art to fight for justice in the United States and beyond. We are one. We are tapping into a wide body of creativity and reason that allows us to create what the people need, if even immediately!

I was asked recently to teach eight to thirteen year olds at Angelic Organics Farm in northern Illinois this summer. Although I have written about the land, the earth, this will be my first time teaching in a place where it is the sole focus and where I have to insert agricultural terms into the teaching so that my students combine art with earth.

We will dig deep into our surroundings and write and sing songs to the birds, the bees, and whatever living creatures we will see as we embark in the workshop out there. I am playing the role of educator more in my work and that is just fine with me! Each one teach one!

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As a reflection, late last year I was interviewed by WNIJ/Northern Public Radio in Rockford. In a session called “State of the Artist” I was featured as an artist out of Rockford, IL who has been at his craft for at least twenty-years. The reporter wanted to take the readers and listeners back into the world of Christopher D. Sims so we headed over to the west side of Rockford, IL where my artistic roots are. It was refreshing and helped me refocus.

All of those experiences growing up, writing rhymes, breakdancing, joining dance
groups has informed the educator of the arts I have grown to become. All of those experiences creatively are in my memory as I seek to challenge the systems that hold us back and look towards creating community through creativity. I have never been
more real to share what I know with the world and be a part of a world community who feels the pressures of just being us.

Also brewing is the possibility of traveling to Louisville, KY this spring for National Poetry Month to perform live with a pianist and a drummer. Through conversation, we could be embarking on what I decided to call us, which is the “Louisville Spoken Word Trio.” I’m not from Louisville but in order get in the door at a venue there I decided to use language that could help our cause!

The opportunities are endless and the willingness for people who committed to the arts
are the path to folks like us pursuing our dreams and entertaining the people. My story continues and so does the rhythm upon which I think, act, and perform. The next time I
check in with you I hope to let you know what is next and how everything I have
mentioned went.


Christopher D SimsChristopher D. Sims is an internationally known poet, spoken word performer, and community organizer. He is also a race relations expert and a lay minister who speaks on social justice issues throughout the country. A Black Lives Matter preacher, Mr. Sims is educating and informing churches about the existence of the Black Lives Matter Movement through performance poetry and sermons that speak truth to power. He has been performing spoken word poetry since the late 1990s. Christopher was an ILI Fellow in Year 2.

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