Earthly Words

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I didn't really have plans to acknowledge Earth Day. I don't get into celebrating my environment as much I should. Thankfully, I got a text that morning around 10 o'clock from Indianapolis-based artist Tony Styxx, and it simply said, "I think I'm going to walk downtown and spit poetry on the monument. It's Earth Day."

Great, I thought, I can honor the day by celebrating the arts. I spent my lunch hour on Monument Circle watching a grassroots, impromptu performance by one of Indy's most talented poets.  

Tony Styxx chills out on Monument Circle following Tuesday's impromptu Earth Day performance. - MALINA SIMONE
  • Malina Simone
  • Tony Styxx chills out on Monument Circle following Tuesday's impromptu Earth Day performance.

A performer since the age of 18, Tony Styxx is a local rapper and spoken word artist. Getting his start at places like The Cypher -- an open mic forum that originated at the Broad Ripple Starbucks between 2004 and 2007 -- and with poetry group Fighting Words Poetry, Styxx has made quite a name for himself. His last two big gigs were the 2013 TedX Indianapolis at the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and then the Happy Hour featuring new pop stars Lily and Madeleine also at the ISO. Styxx called the performance with the orchestra, Time for Three and Lilly and Madeline the greatest moment of the year. It was his biggest performance to date. So here we have an artist who's played at Hilbert Circle Theatre one month and then outside of its doors on the monument the next. Playing for whoever might be listening and hoping no authority figures come to escort him off the premises.

No one left. No one asked him to leave. The performance was simple and amazing. Maybe 20 people were scattered about the southern end of the monument's stairs, and by the end of the performance, another five or so had joined. One woman, who came from a nearby office said, "I'm so glad that he tweeted that he'd be out here today. I saw him at the ISO and really enjoyed him." Another woman was walking by, seemingly in a hurry. When she noticed Styxx performing, she paused, found a spot to stand and exhaled. She lifted her head, looked at the sky and grew visibly calm right before my eyes. It's amazing what the spoken word can do. As I watched her, I realized that people and cities crave arts and culture. Whether spoken word is the art for you or not, people love that performances like this happen in their city. People clapped after each poem. Some of them weren't even close enough to make out all of his words, but everyone enjoyed the fact that it was happening.

One of Styxx's performances was an obvious nod to Earth Day, but it more was about the creation of the planet, not about its present-day state. "On the seventh day that God created the Earth, would it have been too much to ask that he push the reset button?" That may have been my favorite line from that piece. Here I found myself outside with wind blowing on my face, my bare feet touching the ground, and listening to an artist using the tools of his trade -- his mind and voice. What a fabulous way to celebrate the planet and all it has to offer. What an amazing opportunity to applaud an artist who gets it, who grinds; an artist who uses public spaces and public platforms. If he doesn't have enough gigs lined up for the month, he makes his own. I love that about Indy artists and about this poet specifically.

Find out more about Tony Styxx and hear some of his music and writings here. And be sure to check out some of the many Earth Day celebrations taking place around Indy tomorrow.

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