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Second Sundays

Declaring the power of rhythm, embodying his intensity in rhyme, a man rocks the microphone, shaven head glistening, and the couple-hundred folks assembled listen close: "Do you believe in the word?" asks Marc Bamuthi Joseph, the mighty host of Second Sundays. "Yes!" comes the reply.

Bamuthi knows how to keep the audience engaged and active, guiding us through The Living Word, the project he founded that produces Second Sundays, as well as other and events and workshops. A vital force in San Francisco, The Living Word promotes literacy education and performance based on interdisciplinary collaboration. The result? Every month we come together at the Justice League for a massive performance, the largest regular mix of open mic, poetry slam, freestyle jam and musical showcase in town.

The framework of the traditional open mic gets extended forward with the incorporation of live music and visual art, but the poetry always comes first. While the scale and the big club setting can be overwhelming, especially for those at the back who can't hear above the clatter of beer bottles and chattering gossip, it is a good way to increase exposure to more people. And you can always push your way up to the front.

Sometimes the performance is so passionate that the poet becomes one with the audience, a gospel preacher sermonizing his enraptured congregation. More spiritual revelation may be going on at Second Sundays than in many staid churches today, with poets offering hope for those with the post-industrial, war-weary blues. Social commentary, self-discovery, clever put-downs and lots of wordplay can be heard, even some beatboxing when MC Radioactive jumps on stage during intermissions, battling with the DJ. The sounds he emits are poetry, matched by needle scratching record -- "How do you spell ereek-ereek-reek-reek?"

Bamuthi packs in a huge audience with prominent featured poets, such as Saul Williams, Filipino spoken-word team Eighth Wonder, Dennis Kim and Aya de Leon, to name a few. Second Sundays is also a venue to field members of the San Francisco Slam Team, which goes on to compete for a place in the 48-team National Championship Tournament, which the San Francisco team took home in 1999.

Open mic is limited, and in order to slam you have to be invited -- the best way to get asked is by showing up at Strictly Slam and slamming your butt off ... because the slammers at Second Sunday must know how to kick ass.

Second Sundays
Second Sunday of the Month
The Justice League
628 Divisadero St. (at Hayes), San Francisco, 415.292.3255
Doors at 7:30 pm, show 8 pm - 12 midnight
$6 before 9 pm; $10 after, 21+ only