A turquoise spot light illuminated the stage in an intimate setting of nearly 100 people, mostly women at Cafe Istanbul in between the Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods of New Orleans. It initially felt like a male revue because the ladies did scream for the men and there was a Mike with a magical gift. Instead of revealing skin however, poets Just Mike (@justmike_) and his featured artists Vision (@visionpoet) and Jamarr Hall (@jamarrhall) exposed their vulnerability, emotions and love for women through music and spoken word. All three men are from Philly and New Orleans was the first stop in their brief four city tour in June. A few local artists got opportunities to recite their best works as well. The inspiration of the tour came from the release of Just Mike’s book, Dear Woman, released on 12/13/14. A failed suicide attempt in 2013 after a bad breakup redirected Michael E. Reid to heal with a pen instead of pills.
Since the incident two years ago, the 30-year old has invested his heart and money into his blossoming career. Book publishing, airfare travel and hotel accommodations and out of pocket expenses for Just Mike are examples of how determined he is to succeed. With sold out shows in cities like Houston and Dallas and a growing Instagram following with consistent book sales, Mike has no intentions of pulling any disappearing acts on his fans anytime soon.
I got a chance to speak with Mr. Reid after the show to talk about suicide-shaming, his growing popularity and what men think about him.
BlackNBklyn: What made you get into poetry?
Just Mike: I dated this girl and she broke up with me and I attempted suicide. When I got admitted into the hospital and the nurse gave me a journal and said ‘I don’t want you taking pills anymore, just write down your feelings.’ And that’s what I did and started posted my stuff on Instagram and the rest is history.
BNB: How do you feel when people are ridiculed for attempting suicide because of a relationship breakup?
JM: It’s a sensitive subject. I think that at some point we all get to a point where we are overwhelmed. Some people turn to suicide, some turn to homicide, some people eat too much some and some spend too much. It’s all about coping. I’m not into judging anybody because we all sin, just sin differently. I’m just thankful I took my pain and turned it into my purpose. Everybody has a breaking point, just don’t make it break you, but break away from that situation.
BNB: Did you expect the kind of national support that you’ve been receiving in such a short period of time?
JM: Every city is a blessing. I never thought I could do a show in New Orleans. I was surprised to see we sold almost 100 tickets! It’s about people telling their friends and spreading the word and coming out. Definitely want to come back here again.
BNB: What are some of the things guys say when they attend your shows?
JM: Guys are always supportive because they know I am trying to influence their sisters or girlfriends to be better women. Social media gives me a good rep but sometimes guys don’t understand what I’m about until they come to my show.
BNB: What’s one thing that a fan has said to you that really touched you?
JM: How I got them out of a dark place, whether through a post, a book or an email response. For you to be at your breaking point and to say what got you through it was something I said at my show or reading my book, that’s always amazing.
Just Mike goes on tour again domestically and internationally at the end of July for his The Love and Poetry Tour making stops in Toronto, Chicago, Oakland, DC, London and of course, Philly to name a few. Check out the link to see if he’s coming to a city near you. Oh, and if you’re a poet/spoken word artist he wants you to join him on stage.