A fist is more powerful together: Spoken word that's shaping Indy activism 

That Peace open mic is using art to talk about social justice

Mariah Ivey - SUBMITTED
  • Mariah Ivey
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Like Audre Lord, Mariah Ivey's poetry "is not a luxury. It's an obligation," — and it could be how Indy tackles issues like police brutality and racism.

Ivey is often reminded of the Audre Lord quote when she is speaking on stage for That Peace open mic, a spoken word and arts night that she started last year.

"About a year and two months ago I was living in DC and wanted to come back to Indianapolis to enhance the art scene," says Ivey. "... I knew I wanted to use my platform to bring in new artists, established artists, just new people in general to a space where we can all appreciate art."

click to enlarge That Peace open mic night - SUBMITTED
  • That Peace open mic night
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She came back to Indy in May of 2015 and launched That Peace by July.

"A lot of the poetry scenes that I had visited in DC, I admired the fact that every art form was appreciated on their stages," says Ivey. "... I have experienced a lot of sets where it doesn't matter what your art form is, it's all appreciated on this stage."

And it really has all been appreciated. Ivey tries to ensure that everything from music to comedy is welcome at That Peace. The idea for a space of pure collaboration — and one that's not restricted by a 21 and over venue — came when she was on a poetry tour last year.

"It definitely reiterated the power of art, the power of using your voice, the power of literally understanding once you write something, what you put on that paper and then go perform, it could change someone's life," says Ivey.

Ivey sees her own obligation to poetry when her writing connects with someone in the crowd.

"I have seen women crying in the audiences," says Ivey. "Knowing that my truth can resonate and identify with other people, just shows me the power in art. Art brings people together. It literally unifies communities."

click to enlarge A performer at That Peace open mic night - SUBMITTED
  • A performer at That Peace open mic night
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The monthly shows are organized by her with the collaborative help of friends and family. She knew that coming back to Indiana to start That Peace was the right move on the first night. By the time the show started they were out of chairs. By the time performances began everyone in the audience was impacted.

"Everyone started singing this Lauren Hill song. I want to say it was 'Killing Me Softly,' and the whole crowd started singing it together," says Ivey. "I appreciated that moment so much because I don't go to too many spots where it was the exact representation of unity — everyone singing together, everyone appreciating each other. Sometimes you go to different sets and it's like a talent show. We appreciate that too, performer after performer, but this was a really unifying moment.

click to enlarge Mariah Ivey also runs the Kuumba Collective, an arts development program that's geared toward mentorship and activism with young women - SUBMITTED
  • Mariah Ivey also runs the Kuumba Collective, an arts development program that's geared toward mentorship and activism with young women
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"That Peace has, number one, brought artists together," says Ivey. "... I have seen a lot of new artists come to perform at That Peace for the first time, then they connect and network, and now you see them on other people's fliers. That Peace has been a place of being able to bring people together and bridging the gap ... It's been a place of unity," says Ivey.

The name of the show is truly a reflection of her as a person. Ivey also runs The Kuumba Collective, an arts development program that's geared toward mentorship and activism with young women.

"I feel like at the core of who I am, I represent everything peace, everything light, I represent everything unity," says Ivey. "It just makes sense that it's called That Peace, and you get exactly that when you come."

For Ivey, that kind of harmony is what's needed in Indianapolis to ignite social change.

"I am huge on combining the ideas of artistry and activism, because some people take on that role of activism where they speak, or protest, or maybe they march, or maybe they campaign, or they partner with an organization and do mentorships — everybody embodies that role of activism differently," says Ivey. "But as a poet your ability is speaking — not only speaking, but speaking in rhythm, speaking to where you can captivate an audience differently than someone who is doing a speech. You have the ability to draw the attention of people we might have lost.

"A fist is more powerful when it's together," says Ivey. "... If we are able to recognize all of each other's strengths and we come together, how powerful of a force can we be."

click to enlarge That Peace is an all ages space that highlights all art forms - SUBMITTED
  • That Peace is an all ages space that highlights all art forms
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Emily Taylor

Emily Taylor

Emily is the arts editor at NUVO, where she covers everything from visual art to comedy. In fact she is probably at a theater production right now. Before joining the ranks here, she worked for Indianapolis Monthly and Gannett. You can find her thoughts about Indy scattered throughout the NUVO arts section and... more

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