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February Poetify marks milestone

February 24, 2017 GMT

Poetify or “Poetry to Edify” celebrated a milestone when it held its annual African American History Month program at the Germantown Church of Brethren’s Fellowship Hall at 6611 Germantown Ave. in Northwest Philadelphia recently.

On hand were those who stopped by after attending various churches from around the city. Among the faithful was Tracey Griffith of North Philadelphia. She is a member of the Oak Grove Church located at 22nd and Cambria. She said that when she received an invitation from a friend to attend the Poetify event she immediately was interested. Griffith extended her charitable spirit by helping serve the buffet though it was her first time at Poetify.

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“I think it’s such a beautiful thing to have something like this,” Griffith said. “I do not write poetry, but I love to hear it. I find poetry to be very spiritually soothing. It gives me the kind of inspiration you need to get through another day.

“I really think that more churches need to do things like this. It brings people together for something positive. I love seeing all the young people here. It’s just a nice way to end the day after attending church,” Griffith said.

Making her poetic debut was 16-year-old Erin Gray Davis of Germantown, a student at the Franklin Learning Center. Gray is the recipient of numerous local and regional poetic awards. She was a finalist in the 2016 African American Oratorical Contest hosted by Universal Companies, and she performed at the Painted Bride and other venues. She was excited to give her first presentation at her home church.

“I am excited to have my first book published,” Davis said. She then received scattered standing ovations and thunderous applause for the first four poems she did before dinner. Her poems touched on sensitive topics like colorism within the African-American community.

Davis performed her favorite poem “Super Hero” which touched on the 7-year-old girl that was inside the adolescent and how sometimes the child just wanted to be a child pretending to be a fairy or action figure, while being exposed to a more adult world around here. She did a book signing between her recitations.

Poet Victoria Purifoy was among the adult poets who shared her original works. Guests present also read from one of the many Langston Hughes volumes on the sign-in table at the church fellowship’s hall entry. Theresa Ellis chose to read the poem “Mother to Son.”

Norman Kane said that he looks forward to Poetify events. He said that he is a member of Center in the Park in Germantown. There he is part of the poetry group. When he started at the senior citizen’s center he did not write much poetry, but now he feels comfortable to read his own works as well as that of others, he said. Among those that Kane recited was “A Song for a Dark Girl” and “Freedom Train.”

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RuNett Ebo-Gray, a poet and brainchild of Poetify, said that the Feb. 19 event marked the 60th Poetify program. She said that she was inspired to start the group because most open microphone events featured poets who used profanity. She realized that Christians and others who did not use that type of language felt uncomfortable or were not as welcome. So, she started “poetry to edify” that would take place in a profanity-free atmosphere usually on a Sunday after church.

“We could not have it at this fellowship hall initially because the building was not finished,” Ebo-Gray said. “So, we initially met at LaRose in Germantown until this was ready. Now we have it here and we do keep it clean. We’ve been blessed to draw an audience to Poetify for 60 events, and we plan to keep it going.”