Video: Shining Soul uses poetry, hip-hop to celebrate Native American Heritage Month

Video by Lauren Marshall

Members of the community gathered Saturday at the Burton Barr Central Library to show their support for Native American Heritage month through a fusion of hip-hop and poetry.

The event highlighted Shining Soul, a local Phoenix hip-hop group. Shining Soul’s goal is to use poetry and hip-hop as a tool for minority voices, such as those of Native Americans, to be heard.

“It’s rooted in our culture, our traditions,” said Alex Soto, who performs by the name ‘Emcee Liaizon’ for Shining Soul. “We’re here in the cities whether it’s arts, through hip-hop, graffiti and various contemporary mediums that Native people are still here expressing.”

Soto’s performance with his partner, Francisco Habrique, focused on conveying their message that Native American people are still fighting for recognition today.

“I stay persistent in my fight for existence,” the duo sang.

The Arizona Consortium for the Arts, in partnership with the Barton Barr Central Library, facilitated the Native American hip-hop and open mic poetry showcase. Elena Thornton, founder of the Arizona Consortium for the Arts, said she hoped the event would act as a vehicle for bringing together the diverse community — a goal of the organization.

“We are a community organization, and it’s inviting the community to share, to learn, explore,” Thornton said.

Suzanne Sosnowski, an attendee, performed an original poetry piece at the open mic period to honor the peaceful nature of the culture her friends experienced when they visited a reservation.

“Vengeance. A weapon he chooses not to use,” Sosnowski said, describing a man her friend met on the reservation.

Sosnowski said she also believes in the power of the arts to link members of the community. Her nonprofit organization called Arizona Masters of Poetry works to help the young people of Phoenix use spoken word poetry to share their experiences and feelings.

Events like Saturday’s have opened the doors for groups featuring Native American cultural aspects to have a stage to express their concerns to the community.

“I think we ‘don found our niche. It don’t get much better than this,” the Shining Soul duo sang.

Correction: January 31, 2017

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Suzanne Sosnowski attended a reservation herself. It has been updated to reflect that she was referring to visits made by her friends, rather than firsthand experience.

Contact the reporter at ljmarsh1@asu.edu.