Above: photo of Sheri “Purpose” Hall” by Jim Barcus
The Kansas City spoken word pioneer, educator and minister is a recipient of a 2019 Charlotte Street Generative Artist Award
Sheri “Purpose” Hall is an author of three books, including poetry, epistles and a collection of writings titled “Black Girl Shattered.” A dedicated social activist, Hall has been a steady and consistent fixture in Kansas City’s vibrant spoken word scene, receiving numerous awards and accolades along the way.
Now in her second year as a Charlotte Street Studio Resident Artist, Hall was the 2017 ArtsKC Inspiration Breakfast featured artist and a 2017 ArtsKC Inspiration Grant recipient. She has both founded and worked with many local organizations, including Arsyn Press, East of Red ArtHouse, KC Poet Tree, Poetry for Personal Power and For the Win slam team, and she has represented Kansas City at the Women of the World Poetry Slam and the National Poetry Slam.
In March, Hall performed at the Beautiful and Strange Tour at the Sankofa Cafe. Currently, she is helping to produce the 3rd Annual Music and More Poetry Awards, which will be held May 18 at the Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center.
Despite her long list of accomplishments and recognition, Hall is humble and thankful about her Charlotte Street award. “I feel blessed,” she said. “I really worked towards this and I am excited to have received it . . . especially since the last person to win with their primary art being spoken word was Glenn North.”
“I am grateful that these grants are available to the artists here,” she added. “An unrestricted cash prize gives the artist the chance to make the decision on spending the award the way they best see fit, and I think that is what really serves us.”
Charlotte Street Generative Performing Artist award recipients are chosen for the quality of their work and accomplishments, their promise for continued creation and development, and the relevance of their work to the broader field of contemporary art and performance.
Hall, who is also a dedicated wife and mother of four, fits all those criteria. Her fearless unleashing of the spoken word defines her life and work. The simple mention of her name in spoken word circles is met with reverence for her influence on the local poetry scene, her hard work and perseverance and her dedication to her community.
Listeners are spellbound by the purpose she emanates when she speaks.
“Poetry is the historian of the soul’s lamentations, the fight igniter of the spirit, and the wings that allow tired feet to fly, poetry speaks life,” Hall says in her statement on the Charlotte Street website. “My literature paints images of life and imagination that allows the reader to travel to different worlds while gaining a better understanding of the world we are in.”
Hall believes “we are all here for a PURPOSE.” Her tenacious and determined spirit did not develop without obstacles, however.
The child of a single mother in the urban core, Hall used poetry to fight her way through life’s struggles, and she still uses it therapeutically today. A recent series of blog posts known as “The Un-Shaming” addresses the fact that Black women “are shamed into believing that seeking the fulfillment of our needs is wrong. We are made to believe that strength comes in a ‘one-size fits all’ package. We are made to believe that if we cannot do it all, all the time, by ourselves, we are not worthy or deserving of praise.”
Hall finds inspiration in strong women, including two who watch over her in her Charlotte Street Studio (right). “Patron Saint Diva of Black Girl Magic Writers,” captured in a stylized portrait painted on the wall, “is all things fierce, magic and protection,” Hall says. Beneath the diva hangs a photograph of the artist’s grandmother, Helen Hopkins, whom Hall describes as “loud, ladylike, rebel and woman of faith that helped to form my voice.”
Community service is a hallmark of Hall’s work, and she plans to use her award to expand that service. “I have been in the developmental stages of an ArtHouse and a publishing company,” she said, “and this grant will really help with those projects which will, in turn, help the artist community in Kansas City.”
Sheri “Purpose” Hall produces an Open Mic titled “Arsyn Spit Fire” every Tuesday at Equal Minded Café, 4327 Troost Ave. Doors open at 7:30 and the show starts at 8.