By touring the nation and spreading her message of truth to thousands of people, Nina “Lyrispect” Ball, a 2005 Temple alumna of the African American studies department, said she hopes to empower America with her spoken word performances. Although she has been an actress and performer since third grade, Ball said she believes attending Temple was what led her to the dream career path she now leads.
After discovering her passion for the arts, Ball studied theater at the Baltimore School for the Arts, a high school where she was classically trained as an actress. Her interests became more guided toward the media-art world and led her to enroll at Temple in hopes of becoming a screenwriter. Ball wanted to create a more balanced work for people of color, and she knew she could create characters that were not segregated or prejudice.
“There is no substitution for human to human contact [and] the exchanging of energy and the exchanging of ideas,” Ball said. “There is just something about watching someone in a moment that cannot be rewound or done over.”
Ball said taking Temple’s Poetry and Performance class helped her understand how she could make a career of her passions and sparked her ambitions of spoken word. She began to take advantage of frequent open-mic nights around Main Campus, which allowed her to gain courage and expand her personal abilities as a performer.
Eventually, this led to her involvement with Spoken Soul 215, a collective group of five spoken-word performers from a variety of backgrounds. All the members had their own style, whether it was writing and reading poetry, singing, performing hip-hop or mentoring the youth in the community. Ball was asked to join Spoken Soul 215 three years ago, after her friend in the group heard her perform at some on-campus open-mic nights.
Together, the members of the diverse group – which now includes Ball – express the importance of free expression through the arts of voice.
“There is just you and the audience, and when you open your mouth, then that is your moment to share what you represent in this world,” Ball said.
Ball said she felt it was especially inspirational to have like-minded people to bounce ideas off, instead of carrying the loneliness of a solitary performing artist. Spoken Soul 215 created a strong support system, with each member offering individual talents to a collective whole.
Despite Ball’s passion for the arts and performing, she said difficulties can arise in speaking from your heart. She challenges ideas of a conforming society and explores how society views the world and each other as individuals.
“Even if you don’t agree with what I am saying, at least I have you thinking about something in a new way,” Ball said. “There is a payoff in knowing that you have hopefully affected someone’s life in a positive way.”
One group Ball recalled making a positive impact on was a group of Native American youth who never experienced life off their reservation. After her performance for the young audience, they presented her with a handmade wool blanket they draped on their guest of honor. Ball said she was truly shocked and felt honored to be thanked in such a momentous way.
Another moment Ball said she would never forget took place in 2006, when she was honored to perform at the Trumpet Awards in Atlanta. They enjoyed her performance so much, she said, that they asked her back the following year, after she performed in front of an audience that included Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin.
Though this performer has positively influenced many different groups by her spoken word, she finds her biggest accomplishment in being a mentor to the girls of Black Girls Rock, an organization based in Brooklyn, which was represented on BET this past weekend. This organization focuses on establishing self-esteem in 12– to 17-year-old girls through the arts.
“The real reward is being able to mentor young girls who I get to share [their] art and passion with, and help them find their voice within performing,” Ball said.
After looking back on her college career and comparing it to her current lifestyle as a spoken word performer, Ball advised students to use every bit of information they learn in class to accomplish their dreams. Using what is learned in poetry is the best way to challenge one’s mind, she said.
“There is a dangerous amount of conformity in youth,” Ball said. “The more of us who can speak up with our own individual voices, the better off we will all be and the more enlightened we will all be to avoid the many misconceptions about the world.”
Chelsea Wargo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.