John Paul Taylor
John Paul is a well sought out performer, known for his dynamic delivery and unique power. He has formed several noteworthy alliances during his career, performing with hip hop group Left Field
as well as partnering with Jeff Jeffcoat to form the spoken word/blues fusion duo, New Man. John Paul and Jeff
Jeffcoat received Birmingham Urban League's Mutli-racial Friendship award in 2009. John Paul has been
featured in various documentaries and music projects, including 'Get Well", a documentary produced by Eyeline
Films and "Mr. Dial Has Something to Say", a documentary produced by APT (a PBS affiliate). In 2008 the
soundtrack for “Mr. Dial Has Something to Say” was nominated for an Emmy. The film went on to win 5
Emmys. www.aptv.org/as/mrdial/soundtrach.asp . John Paul has also been a member of the board of directors
for the HHIM Foundation (Hip-Hop is Music) since 2008.
In August of 2006 John Paul formed Real Life Poets, Inc. with Leroy "Obeah" Hicks and David "Quick" Hawthorne, an endeavor that would set the stage for a lifetime of purpose driven accomplishments. Real Life Poets is a 501 c3 non-profit community service and mentoring organization focusing on mentoring young adults, encouraging good communication, and oratorical skills using spoken word poetry and the arts.
Chef Eryka E. Perry
Eryka Perry, Chef, entrepreneur, and all around foodie has been playing in the kitchen since she was old
enough to reach the stove. She has had the opportunity to travel a small part of the world experiencing
the craft of others and honing her own. The combination of having a diverse family from different parts
of the World, like the Philippines, South Africa, Hawaii and different regions of the US, coupled with her
Military travels to regions like Germany and Bolivia have greatly influenced her style of cooking.
Receiving her culinary arts degree opened a door to a world of food never before imagined. Since
receiving her degree in the summer of 2005 she has worked to cultivate this passion into a sought after
skill, exploring every side of food possible. Eryka has had the pleasure of being on the opening team of
influential and landmark hotels and restaurants in such positions as lead cook, line supervisor, and Sous
Chef. Including the Renaissance Montgomery Hotel & Spa at the Convention Center, a four diamond
hotel and restaurant ranked number 1 in the RSA brand, Steppers & Walkers, a unique fusion of Chicago
style dance, food, and ambiance with that of Alabama, and SAZA’s Serious Italian Food, which features
an authentic home style Italian menu with a unique focus on art and culture. Eryka has cooked under
classically trained chefs like Master Chef Joe DiMaggio Jr. and Executive Chef Gregory Reynolds. Eryka’s
continuous quest to enhance her skill and knowledge of food was rewarded when she took home
Montgomery’s Iron Chef Tittle on three separate occasions.
Thed Weller is one of those anomalies that you can't explain but delight in nonetheless. His music reminds you of why you fell in love with hip hop and how you know it still has a pulse. Thed's sophomore album entitled Better Than I Can Tell You "thankfully returns southern hip hop to its rightful place, one of intelligence and musical acumen, without losing an ounce of soul in the process” - Fleabomb.com. This is the follow up to his award winning debut album Ain't No Pillows on the Road and is not only a collection of memorable rhymes, melodic choruses and powerful commentary but it also is a testament to what he's doing outside of his musical career. He has also worked on the Emmy Award Winning Alabama Public Television documentary Mr. Dial Has Something to Say. He, along with several other Alabama artist, made history when they put together the first Original Motion Picture Soundtrack ever to accompany an APT Original Documentary. He is currently the lead man in the hip-hop collective [DAT2]. Thed also narrated the award winning independent film Open Secret which is currently in circulation around the country. His commitment to the educational future of our youth is also evident in his non-performing career. Thed spends his days educating the youth of the Bessemer City School System as a 6th grade educator and is currently a PhD candidate in education at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Alex "Huggy Bear da Poet" Loftin
Huggy Bear Da Poet was born and raised in the city of Mobile Alabama, but his talents have allotted him the opportunity to travel the world. Huggy has graced the stages of venues across the states. Greenway Theatre in L. A., Apache Café in Atlanta, the Nuyorican Café in New York City are just a few of his proudest stops. He has opened up for such greats as Nikki Giovanna and Jesse Jackson. He has graced the stage with some of the biggest poets, comics and entertainers in the industry. Through his socially aware poetry he has captivated and evoked social change in each and every venue he has performed. Huggy writes from the heart and performs from the soul. He uses spoken word to motivate, empower, and agitate people towards social change. His in your face style of performance provides a catalyst to make one look deep within one self and face those things that might be one of your own personal fears.
Huggy is a self-published poet. In his book titled Love, Laughter, Heartache and Pain, he takes the reader on a journey through his own personal walk in life. In this book he shares very intimate details of his battles with the pain of deception, social political awareness and the struggle of the black family as the reader takes the ride with this “Lyrical Beast”.
Through spoken word Alex “Huggy Bear” Lofton II, hopes the social change will not be revolutionary, but evolutionary in the sense that it will be the ultimate tool in our struggle to make Black America better.
Marika Johnson was born in New Jersey and lived in several cities thereafter before graduating from the University of Montevallo with a BFA and settling down in Birmingham, Alabama. Her works of art attempt to capture everyday events/people through simplistic elements of the music known as a hip-hop. This form of music takes elements from different genres and composes the urban music we know today. Like wise, with art, she constitutes a multi-layered, textured environment that echoes the rhythms and complexities. Beginning to make a name for herself she has been featured as a live artist for several sponsored events, Urbanham’s Art on the Runway and has participated in the nationally sponsored show Art, Beats + Lyrics. An out the box thinker and all around creative geek, Marika has taught art and media classes to adults in Paint and Party and youngsters in conjunction with The Greater Birmingham Ministries and Better Basics.
“I do what I love and I am passionate about it”—Marika N. Johnson
Leroy "Obeah" Hicks
He began doing spoken word in 1997. That same year he was asked to join Infinite Currents, Birmingham’s pioneer spoken word organization which he was a member of until 1999. Afterwards Obeah became a member of The Village, a Hip Hop/Spoken word group. As a member of the Village Obeah was invited to perform at the White House for the “Million Family March”. Also as a member of the Village he had the opportunity to travel and do opening acts in New York, Miami, Philadelphia, and Georgia, opening up for acts such as India Irie, Anthony David, and many other recording artist. Feeling the need to give back to the community Obeah along with John Paul Taylor and David “Quick” Hawthorne decided to host an a show at a venue in the Eastlake area, Sista Soul Food Café to introduce people to the arts that would not ordinarily have the opportunity or exposure. While hosting the show at Sista Soul Food Café they also began operation mustard seed, where they would feed the community as well as provide clothing to the needy. This later on led to the formation of Real Life Poets Inc.
Natashia "Indy" Easley
Natashia “Indy aka Flow2Eazy” Easley discovered at a very early age the power of using words as an outlet for her to express herself. It was her love of words that allowed her to turn a tumultuous childhood into inspiring pieces of expression. While Indy is a newcomer to the stage, she has been writing poetry since the age of 5. Her writings are considered both personal and socially aware reflections of what she feels, thinks, and sees in her day to day life. Her hope is that her writing will not only inspire others to express themselves, but bring more consciousness of many topics society refuses to discuss.
While Indy was born in Birmingham, she was raised in Montezuma, GA and received her Bachelor’s degree in Technical & Professional Communication from Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta, GA. Indy is currently attending the University of Alabama to obtain her Masters in Social Work, with a plan to connect the power of personal expression to youth services. Indy’s passion for promoting a better quality of life for all children is demonstrated through her on-going involvement with several mentoring programs throughout Birmingham and the workshops facilitated on behalf of Real Life Poets.
Patrick “S. Fly” Johnson is an Emmy® Nominated producer/emcee and hip hop
activist, and was the chief founder of the mighty Red Light District – a
family consisting of emcees, singers, and musicians – and helped pioneer the
Alabama underground hip hop music scene. He later joined jazz/soul/funk band Mecca’s Groove (trombone), and has shared billing with Mary J. Blidge, Run-DMC, Outkast, and Goodie Mobb to
name a few. In 2006, Patrick was chosen by APT to produce original music
for the soundtrack and score to Mr. Dial Has Something to Say. The film’s
trailer won an Emmy® Award in 2007, and the full length documentary was
awarded 4 Emmy® Award’s in 2008. Patrick also received the distinguished
honor of being nominated for an Emmy Award for acting as Music Director of
S. Fly is also the president of the Board of Directors for the Museum of
Urban Art and co-chair of Real Life Poet's Board of Directors. Both organizations
are dedicated to the education and empowerment of our communities through
the urban arts and the culture of hip hop music.
Karen "Jazz" Harris
Karen Harris is a leading expert in connecting creative professionals with educational and business resources needed to enhance their industry knowledge and business performance. With her experience as a poet, jazz vocalist, and published makeup artist she is recognized for her ability to enlighten others to their creative potential. As an artist she has performed in numerous venues including the historical Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, performed alongside jazz greats Elizabeth Spraggins and Jose Carr, danced in the company of world-renown dancer Jacquelyn Lockhart, and provided makeup services for several notable fashion publications including Birmingham’s Upgrade Magazine. Her latest projects include Lights, Camera, Fashion, a Beauty and Fashion Expose and Collaboration Makes Cents, an organization created to bridge the gap between creative professionals and resources. Recently she has partnered with Real Life Poets, a non-profit organization designed to educate local youth through after school poetry programs. Organizations Karen has worked with includes 4E Entertainment, A-to-Z Tutoring, BAAM (Birmingham Arts and Music Festival), Beginning Bridge,CDC, Discovery Clubs of Alabama, The Downtown Entrepreneurial Center (Bessemer, AL), The Magic City Black Expo and We Are Rtists (WAR).