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Community, creativity collide as The Memory Cafe debuts

Emmitt James (left) and Jamai Fisher put on a combined performance/workshop at the Jazz Gallery's "Memory Cafe."
Emmitt James (left) and Jamai Fisher put on a combined performance/workshop at the Jazz Gallery's "Memory Cafe."

This past weekend, I made my way to the Jazz Gallery for the first installment of “The Memory Cafe” — a series of pop-up events that give local writers and musicians a place to share, connect and create.

The night started with an intimate writing workshop led by Sarah Grzezinski and Marika Holbus. With help from prompts, the talented duo guided participants as they dug deep to explore topics like art, self and summertime memories. Writers were welcome to share their work after and found a diverse, welcoming crowd from across Milwaukee waiting for them in a room that had completely filled up by the time the open mic started.

The positive vibes continued with the night’s featured artist, Emmitt James, who did not disappoint. Congruent with the theme, James opened his set with a few poems that lent insight to the life and mindset of the Milwaukee native.

Later joined by his partner and local poet Jamai Fisher, they recited a poem about the idiosyncrasies of their relationship: arguing about leaving on the heater, morning breath and the next season of their favorite Netflix series. The stories were raw and deeply personal, weaving moments of lightness and musicality just when things started to get too real. By the end of it, my cheeks hurt from smiling, yet I was still holding back tears.

James is a storyteller at heart and somewhat of an amateur comedian when you get into the lyrics. Songs like “Cornbread, Collard Greens, & Backshots” and “If Your Orange Juice is Yellow It’s Not Real” need little more introduction than that. He ended his set with “WR-4R,” a staple in my “morning on the way to work” playlist.

The Memory Cafe is community at its best. If you’re looking for a place to showcase your latest works or to build relationships with other local creatives, don’t miss the next installment Oct. 13. More immediately, you can catch Emmitt James at The Miramar this Saturday, July 22, as part of Share the Vibes Fest.

88Nine On-Air Talent| Radio Milwaukee