LR poet to kick off National Poetry Month at WNP

Little Rock poet CC Mercer Watson will kick off National Poetry Month at Wednesday Night Poetry. (Submitted photo)
Little Rock poet CC Mercer Watson will kick off National Poetry Month at Wednesday Night Poetry. (Submitted photo)

Little Rock poet, author, textile artist, activist, and Found(her) of A BLACK SPACE, CC Mercer Watson, will kick off National Poetry Month today as the featured performer at Wednesday Night Poetry.

The regular open mic session for all poets, musicians and storytellers will begin at 6:30 p.m. today at Kollective Coffee + Tea, 110 Central Ave. Mercer Watson will begin her feature set at 7:30 p.m., followed by another round of open mic. Admission is free and open to all ages. "All are welcome. WNP is a safe space," a news release said.

"I was born in the 1980s, something that I proudly proclaim, in Little Rock, Arkansas," Mercer Watson said in the release. "Though I've lived on the East Coast of the United States and in West Africa for a spell, it is the South that will always be home. I currently live in Little Rock. The work of Liberation is not done, and I want to make where I'm from shine as the Mecca and jewel that she is in The Natural State."

Mercer Watson has a kaleidoscope of talent that includes being a textile artist, actor, activist, poet, playwright, author, Found(her) of A BLACK SPACE and lead designer of Mercer Textile Mercantile -- "those passions being a conduit for uplifting voices of color and making marginalized populations visible," the release said.

"In every thread of her being, she is weaving a tapestry of her ancestors, draped in Afro-futurism," the release said.

"I've recently taken the incredible leap to pursue my craft of theater, poetry, and textiles full-time," Mercer Watson said.

"In addition to my artistic profession, I am also the Community Connector for the Downtown Little Rock Masterplan. Through that work, our team engages with our neighbors, friends, colleagues, and citizens in the Capital City to analyze data and capture the essence of our collective dreams for Little Rock. It is being in community that I value most -- telling our stories, and ideating on what can be. My work will always reflect times; past, present, and future. I have a growing fiber art practice that is managed by M2 Gallery. I also manage two of my own companies, Crystal C. Mercer LLC and Mercer Textile Mercantile. I am also the executive director of A BLACK SPACE, a nonprofit that serves Black thinkers, doers, and Dreamers through cultural bearing, oral tradition, and ancestral craft. When I'm not saving the world, I enjoy cooking, reading, listening to music, and dancing."

The name Mercer is steeped in cultural and historical symbolism and depth in Arkansas. "I have to pay homage to Little Rock Central High School, my alma mater, and battleground for the 1957 Desegregation Crisis when The Little Rock Nine (LR 9) were the first African American students to attend the formerly all-White school," she said.

"My late father, Attorney Christopher C. Mercer, Jr. was the Field Secretary for the local NAACP, and he worked alongside Thurgood Marshall, Attorney Wiley A. Branton, Sr., Daisy Bates, and the families of the LR 9. My father always told me that education was something that nobody could take away from me once I had it. His unique experience in the thick of the Civil Rights Movement prompted me to pursue every dream, and get my credentials along the way."

Aside from her degrees, a BA in Theatre Arts and Dance from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and master's degree in Public Service from the Clinton School of Public Service, Mercer Watson also spent a year of graduate studies abroad at the Nubuke Foundation in Accra, Ghana, West Africa.

"Last year on the fall equinox, I married Quincy 'QNote' Watson," she said. "It was a glorious affair, Black Love meets cocktail hour in the Land of Oz -- 'The Wiz' is my favorite movie. Quincy and I have a Chiweenie, Lola Bean, and we love being the cool Auntie and Uncle. My husband is an artist as well, jazz pianist, producer, audio engineer, and videographer. Our talents are endless and it's been a beautiful pairing to have such a creative and understanding life partner."

When asked about her background in writing, Mercer Watson said, "I began writing poetry when I was 7 years old, about to be 8, in my 3rd class with Mrs. Gingrich at Geyer Springs Elementary School. She did a unit on Haikus, and I was hooked! I'm an extrovert that also enjoys the company of myself, however when I was a kid, I was incredibly shy and would only ignite my personality around family and friends. Poetry helped me express what I was feeling without interacting with people. It was an outlet and a lifesaver. Over the years my writing has blossomed in form, with an acute focus to document and preserve my divine feminine, my human experience, social justice matters, family, nature, and love."

"My poetry is raw, sometimes painful to write and recite, sometimes joyful and it slides between my smiling face with ease, sometimes thought-provoking and begging to question, argue, and explore," she said. "I write every day, and mostly my empathy drives what thoughts I'm preserving through verse. I've been inspired by so many poets, mostly Black, queer, and of color," who include Nikki Giovanni, Alice Walker, June Jordan, Pearl Cleage, Langston Hughes, Lucille Clifton, Maya Angelou, "and of course, my sister in poetry, Kai Coggin."

Her first book, "A Love Story Waiting To Happen," is an "intimate look at my life in verses, freestyle, and rhyme to reflect my experiences as a woman, in love, in the struggle for justice, and wayfinding my heart's desire. My second published book is a children's story called 'From Cotton To Silk: The Magic of Black Hair.' I stitched the original artwork by hand, 32 pages of mini quilts that took 467 hours to mend together. The story is an ode to cultural beauty, inspired by my nieces, and melanated children everywhere, to love themselves in their natural state. Both books can be purchased on my website, www.crystalcmercer.com, and I will have autographed copies available at WNP."

When asked about her connection to WNP, Mercer Watson said, "WNP is a hallelujah of literary arts. Wednesday Night Poetry, through the loving invitation of the late Bud Kenny, began my long-standing association with the nation's longest-running open mic series. So in a sense, WNP found me, and it's been my sanctuary in-person, and online with Kai during the pandemic, for many years ... and will be for many years to come."

"I am so thrilled to welcome my Sis, the glorious Black Light, the pillar of power, craft, innovation, and divinity -- CC Mercer Watson -- back to the WNP stage to kick off National Poetry Month," WNP Host and Hot Springs Poet Laureate Kai Coggin said in the release.

"I cannot say enough about this woman, not just on a professional level, but on a deeply personal level. We lift each other up. We blurb each other's books. We mother communities together. We never break the line. CC Mercer Watson always wows the crowd, infuses each soul in the room with her poignant, beautiful, poetic magic, and leaves everyone inspired and activated. I am so excited to hear and feel her heart. You don't want to miss this! Come early and get a seat," Coggin said.

This week marks 1,836 consecutive Wednesdays of open mic poetry in downtown Hot Springs since Feb. 1, 1989, over 35 years ago. "Wednesday Night Poetry is the longest-running consecutive weekly open mic series in the country. For more information, email [email protected]," the release said.

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