For over nine years, Trenton spoken-word artists, poets and writers of all ages and backgrounds have gathered together on the third Friday of every month to share their latest works in an accepting and welcoming environment. On Friday, November 20, 2020, the group meeting, collectively known as the Willingboro Open Mic, celebrated its 9TH year anniversary.
Co-founder and host, Todd Evans, originally from Trenton, has been running the Willingboro Open Mic in the same venue, at the Willingboro Kennedy Center, since its creation. According to Evans, in the open mic world, it is uncommon to have such a long lasting event.
“There’s not too many open mics that have gone that long of a time,” said Evans. “That’s kind of unheard of with open mics.”
The Willingboro Open Mic prides itself on its ability to provide an established place for writers and creators of all kinds to go and express themselves. “The ages go from eight to 80, literally,” said Evans. “We’ve had kids; we’ve had seniors; all different kinds of people and all kinds of spoken-word, reading poetry, comedies [and] singing.”
Friday’s 9TH anniversary celebration featured notable husband and wife, jazz musician and poet, Alan and Sherrie Wilkins. Together, the pair combined Sherrie’s love for poetry and Alan’s love for jazz music in a single, joint performance.
Although the Wilkins’ have notoriety in their fields of art, Evans is adamant on keeping the Willingboro Open Mic open to any talent of any ability range.
“There’s some open mics that are kind of ‘clique-ish,’ like only the best poets go to this one and only the young poets go to this one,” said Evans. “Ours is very eclectic. You got all different kinds of poets, all different kinds of people, all different kinds of performers, all different ages and everybody seems to have a good time.”
Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, it is even more important for Evans to host an event for artists share their ideas now. “One thing about the open mic, especially [for] our artistic people, our patrons of the arts, is that it was a way for them to get away,” said Evans.
He continued, “With the COVID, riots and stuff that’s going on this year, I had to cancel a lot of events and stuff, so I’m just looking for people to relax a little bit and take a deep breath.”