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‘The Art and Rhymes of Ghetto Girl Blue’: an interview wit’ Jessica Holter, founder of the Punany Poets

October 14, 2013

by The People’s Minister of Information JR

Ghetto Girl Blue aka Jessica Holter, founder of the Punany Poets, is a legendary fixture in the pantheon of Bay Area adult edu-tainment. After 19 years, the internationally renowned Punany Poets are still pioneering in their technique of using explicit material to teach about self-love, AIDS awareness, safe sex etc.

Jessica Holter, web
Jessica Holter
On Saturday, Oct. 26, at 5 p.m. at the Black Repertory Theater, Jessica Holter will be performing her one-woman show “The Art and Rhymes of Ghetto Girl Blue,” which is an autobiographical piece about her very colorful and tragic life. For this author, cultural critic, sexual therapist, teacher, spoken word artist, playwright and graphic artist, just to name a few of her jobs, to open up about her personal journey, it will definitely be a night to remember. Check out Jessica Holter in her own words …

M.O.I. JR: Can you tell us when you got into entertainment?

Jessica Holter: I started as an entertainment writer. I covered shows and wrote record reviews for publications like 4080, Hipno, Huh and The SF Bay Guardian. I was a fan of hip hop before the misogyny began.

It was simply ironic that one of the members of NWA, a group that epitomized what I was beginning to despise in our music, contracted AIDS. I could see so clearly that Black women were going to be the next victims.

I thought, I should put a book together, like a compilation album … but a book, put some pictures of hot girls and guys in it, with some safer sex messages and get some of the artists I knew to help me.

M.O.I. JR: When and what caused you to start the Punany Poets?

Jessica Holter: It was 1995. I recruited some Bay Area writers like P Frank Williams, Gary Mcoy and DJ Blackmon and multi-talents like Ebony Browne, Yolanda Stevenson, Traci Bartlow and Dayna Gaspard, who danced, modeled and offered photography.

I got help from Bay Area notables too like Mystic, Money B, Dwayne Wiggins, A Plus and Conscious Daughters to help me put a book together called “Punany: The Hip Hop Psalms.” It was a great little book. But I had no idea how to sell it once we made it.

So, I put shows together, where artists would perform material that was printed in the book as erotic and comedic sketches. AIDS Project East Bay would supply the condoms and do a safer sex demonstration at the shows … before long I had a formula that I still use at most of my events.

M.O.I. JR: What were some of the highlights over the two decades in which you have been doing the Punany Poets?

Jessica Holter: The amount of material I have accumulated over the last 19 years is amazing. I have really enjoyed my work. The fans make me feel happy, needed and wanted in a way the people in my personal life cannot, because I cannot seem to get and stay close to many people. I have also gotten to meet some very great and talented people over the years. When talented people get together and create, it is magical. I love my job.

M.O.I. JR: Can you talk a little bit about your series of novels? What made you take the time to become an author?

Jessica Holter: A writer is what I have always wanted to be. The Punany Project has allowed me to do some writing, but I am afraid the demand of the work has made writing longer pieces more difficult. I have two novels, “The Punany Experience: The War Between Tops and Bottoms” and “AKA Dead Man: An Epiphany Brenner Mystery,” six anthologies of poetry – “Punany Hip Hop Psalms Classic,” “Punany The Hip Hop Psalms New Colored Classic,” “Punany The Hip Hop Psalms II: Black Love American Style,” “Punany The Hip Hop Psalms III: The Oneliners,” “Punany The Hip Hop Psalms IV: Southern Comfort” and “Verbal Penetration.”

I have two poetry books of my exclusive material: “Speak the Unspeakable” and “Cancer of Love,” and I recently published “GGB’s Art Book.” All of my books are available now on Amazon as physical books as well as e-books.

M.O.I. JR: So what kind of visual artist are you? How long have you been doing that?

Jessica Holter: I can draw. I have very little formal training. I have taken some classes in acrylic painting and charcoal drawing, but I found a real love for graphic art. Out of necessity, nearly 20 years ago, I had to learn to make my own graphics, because I could not afford a graphic designer to lay out flyers or books. My brother gave me a single lesson in Photoshop and I mean … some of this work will make your heart sing. When I got the first pieces printed on canvas recently, I was breathless and blushing.

M.O.I. JR: What is your one-woman performance about?

Jessica Holter: “The Art and Rhymes of Ghetto Girl Blue” is an art exhibit and a stand up poetry and comedy show. But it is also to pique community interest in a program that I really would like support with.

Project COVE – Collective Oratory Voices for Excellence – is a self-esteem and speech program for teenage foster children. In all these years, even with all of my community service, I have never asked for a grant, until now. Calling all grant writers: Visit www.projectcove.org and you will see how truly special this program will be.

Regarding the show, I almost called the show “Light Skinnded.” That is what people called me growing up. I grew up in foster care in East Oakland. You see, I was forcibly split apart from my natural brothers because they are white and I am half Black. This was the doing of an organization of Black social workers.

“The Art and Rhymes of Ghetto Girl Blue” is an art exhibit and a stand up poetry and comedy show. But it is also to pique community interest in a program that I really would like support with: Project COVE – Collective Oratory Voices for Excellence – a self-esteem and speech program for teenage foster children.

I still struggle with the feelings of abandonment, insecurity and emotional detachment that most foster children experience. So, if being a mixed, black girl, from the hood with big famous breasts and abandonment issues is not entertainment enough, I will make sure that my oratory skills keep the audience on the edge of their seats.

When I was young I wanted to be a preacher. But I was molested, then raped and started to doubt and question God. I talk about this too in my show. I grew up also in a church. It was called True Vine Missionary Baptist Church back then, and there I learned public speaking from the most amazing man, Pastor Newton Carey Jr. I got some Toastmasters training in junior high from Ms. Lovelady Hopkins, honed my journalism skills at Fremont High and fine-tuned my speaking in the Martin Luther King Jr. Forensic Society at Howard University.

So, my show is the convergence of my talents, my pain, my victories and vulnerabilities. The art on the walls, I imagine, are the feelings I do not know how to speak aloud.

M.O.I. JR: Where have you been recently, because I hear about the Punany Poets all over the country?

Jessica Holter: Most recently I was in Los Angeles at the J Spot. It was nice; I reconnected with an old friend, comedian Luenell, and we are planning to do some writing together and I have invited her to tour with us. I really hope she can, as our show has become funnier over the years. A good comedian is always in line with what we do. The Punany Poets make regular appearances in many cities, including Phoenix, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Detroit, New York City and Negril, Jamaica.

M.O.I. JR: How do people keep up with you?

Jessica Holter: I’m online a lot. People can find me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. Our official website is www.punanysplayhouse.com.

The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey is associate editor of the Bay View, author of “Block Reportin’” and filmmaker of “Operation Small Axe” and “Block Reportin’ 101,” available, along with many more interviews, at www.blockreportradio.com. He can be reached at blockreportradio@gmail.com.

 

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