When We Arrived presents: an interview with poet Brad Walrond

When did you know you were a poet?

I knew I was a poet when I first discovered the Sunday Tea Party in 1994. The Sunday Tea Party was the weekly open mic on Fulton Street downtown Brooklyn founded by Ian Friday. This creative collective of artisans served as one of the key creative cauldrons for the Black Arts movement in the 1990s. Saul William’s first public reading of his seminal poem Sha Klak Klak was at the Tea Party. Erykah Badu, Mos Def, and Jessica Care Moore were frequent visitors and contributors just before their careers exploded and well afterward. I had been writing for about a year when I saw a flyer for the Tea Party at the barber shop. I called inquired attended and never missed a Sunday for three consecutive years.

What is the role of poetry in your community?

For Black folk poetry is necessarily a communal craft. We are bourne out of an oral tradition. We write because our people our struggle our collective cry for justice and healing depends on the flashes of light and insight and grief and defiance that our poets and prophets craft into spoken and written word.

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“The voice is where the magic begins. It is with this sound that the spell is spoken and sent across the universe.” ~ Brad Walrond

Poet, writer, performer and activist Brad Walrond was born in Brooklyn New York to first generation Caribbean parents from Barbados. Brad began writing and performing at the age of 24 when he was asked to participate in a theatrical production curated by the legendary entertainer and activist Harry Belafonte.

Shortly thereafter Brad discovered a thriving community of artists, writers and performers at the Sunday Tea Party at Frank’s Lounge in Brooklyn. The Tea Party was an instrumental incubator as Brad honed his craft soon becoming one of the foremost writers and performers of the Black Arts Movement of ‘90s. It was at the Tea Party and other venues like the Brooklyn Moon Café, the Nuyorican Poets Café and numerous venues in and around NYC that Brad had the pleasure of sharing the stage with renowned writers, poets and artists including Abiodun Oyewole of the Last Poets, legendary actress/writer Ruby Dee, Erykah Badu, Saul Williams, Jessica Care Moore, Mos Def, Liza Jesse Peterson, Universes (Then: Mildred Ruiz, Stephen Sapp, Flaco Navaja and Lemon Anderson) and Craig “muMs” Grant.

Brad’s creative voice is rooted in an activist tradition. While pursuing his creative path Brad also served as Assistant to the National Program Director of Pathways to Teaching Careers and as Director of Education at FACES—the historic non-profit in Harlem New York first to respond to the HIV pandemic targeting at-risk populations of color.

Brad received his BA at the City College of New York and received a full scholarship to pursue is doctoral studies in the Department of Political Science at Columbia University. Brad’s battle with major depression upended his studies and he chose to pursue an alternate career in the culinary arts. Brad has had the privilege to cook at some of the finest world-class kitchens in New York City.

For nearly a decade, due to a demanding work schedule, and a persistent depression Brad became disconnected from his creative voice. Fortunately with what he attributes to much prayer, perseverance and professional medical care Brad has found his way back to the rich echoes of his creative voice.

The voice is to a poet what point of view is to a visual artist. It is your signature footprint on the creative landscape. Brad has returned with fervor to his prodigious creative terrain and is claiming his rightful place in it. He has been missed. He is more then just a poet or a speaker of words; he is a weaver of spells and bringer of passion and light.

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