Vp Issue 7: “'What’s YOUR Platform?' To be a performance artist"

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Vp Issue 7: “'What’s YOUR Platform?' To be a performance artist"

in Jamaica and she felt the only thing she could do was leave.

At the age of 24 she arrived in New York City. When a date taking her to the Nuyorican Poet’s Café ended up standing her up, she stayed on to hear the performances. “The energy that night was so high. I was out on my own. I felt so full and so present. And hearing a black woman (Sarah Jones) speaking in her own voice about her life and other ways of living and being, I saw that I had stories to tell. I wanted the world to hear stories of a Jamaican Chinese lesbian.” She waited until the crowd thinned out and during the open mic, stood up to read a passage from her journal about a girl who was being raped. At the end of her reading Lynn Prococe who runs Bar 13, a poetry nightclub in New York City, offered her $50 to perform at her venue. That set Chin on a trajectory into the world of slam poetry that has taken her from her early days at New York City’s poetry clubs to Russell Simmons’s 2002 Tony-nominated “Def Poetry Jam on Broadway.”

Chin has been the winner of numerous slam competitions and has been featured in publications such as the New York Times and the Washington Post. She has also appeared on TV for “60 Minutes” and PBS’s “In the Life.” In Jamaica, Chin experienced what she terms as “shadism” — discrimination based on shades of blackness within the black community. As a lighter-skinned, half-black, half-Chinese girl, the other black kids picked on her growing up. When she began traveling to other continents she experienced racism on a global scale.

On a recent trip to South Africa she felt that even though the laws for racial equality are in place, “the law doesn’t change the deep-seeded discrimination within the minds of people.” Chin recognizes that her art is her weapon to fight discrimination. “Art is a great agitator. It’s through art that social change can take place. Art can pave the way for discussions of sex, misogyny, and race. It can disarm the audience and allow them to listen to the message without forcing the message on them with violence.” Chin continues,“a white woman from the Upper East Side may never be comfortable coming to my home, sitting in my room to listen to what