The Toledo poetry and performance art scene is alive and vibrant. For Kesha “Kay Renee” Valentine, poetry is part of who she is, and she shares that by spreading the rhythm and melody of spoken word through various local events, including Poetry & SOUL Sessions and Poetry & Soul Colors.
Kesha “Kay Renee” Valentine
We asked Valentine, a Toledo native who joined the poetry scene in 2008 after attending a show at the then “Ground Level Cafe, about the artist behind the words. A self-proclaimed “shy poet/artist who found her voice through a love of all things art.” Valentine has been a writer for as long as she can remember and admits that sharing her work is difficult because it often focuses on controversial topics. Her most well-known poem, “Dear Caseworker,” touches on domestic violence from a victim’s perspective and was inspired by her own experience as a social worker.
In 2010, Valentine, along with Naki Akrobetto and Ky Holston, founded Azucar Morena Ent and created the Poetry series “The E-Zone,” uniting eroticism and poetry in Toledo – something that hadn’t yet been explored. Since then, Valentine has co-hosted a series of other live events and fundraisers including B.A.P.P.S. (Black Aids Poetry and Paint Sessions), The Poetic Art Jam, P.I.N.K. (Performers in the Name of Komen), and Stand and Deliver, an honor to the late Patrice Davis.
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Valentine shares that, although she works as a social worker full-time and is the sole owner of NRG Me by Valentine (an artisan jewelry making business), hosting events allows her to stay connected to the art scene, a boost of strength for her over the years. “Poetry and music have the capacity to transcend language barriers and cultural differences, as they speak directly to the core of our being,” Valentine explains, adding, “They are an outlet of self-expression for everyone involved to share their innermost thoughts and feelings.”
SOUL and Colors as a “Vibe”
Adding to her poetic resume , Valentine believes that progress is power and new experiences feed the artistic soul. Her most recent endeavors include The Poetry & Soul Colors at The Truth Art Gallery in downtown Toledo and the Poetry & SOUL Session at The Entrepreneurs Club in East Toledo. Both events are a collaborative effort with her partner Megan Powell, and the band Soulful Collective (Gary Black and C.J. Brown). The Poetry & SOUL Session is a long-standing show passed down to Valentine from Rhonda Sewell and L.J. Hamilton, the event’s original hosts.
“It provides a memorable experience for attendees through live music by Soulful Collective, two to four featured performing artists, an occasional live art demo and an open mic session at the end,” Valentine said. Valentine emphasizes that the sessions provide a safe space for local and regional artists to showcase their work.