Over the past eight years in Tampa, nightclubs and music groups have come and gone. But Black on Black Rhyme Tampa hasn't missed a single stanza.
On Friday, the spoken-word group will celebrate its eighth anniversary, making BOBR Tampa the area's longest-running poetry show, organizers say. They've declared Sept. 13 to 19 Black On Black Rhyme Tampa Week, with nightly events that culminate this weekend.
The group is known for its weekly open mic showcase, which over the years has highlighted local talents as well as national acts like Taalam Acey and Sunni Patterson. Members also hold poetry contests at the annual Tampa Bay Black Heritage Festival, compete yearly in the Southern Fried Poetry Slam and arrange food drives.
Founder Walter "Wally B." Jennings modeled the group after the original Black on Black Rhyme, which started in Tallahassee in 1998. After graduating from Florida A&M University, Jennings moved back to his native Tampa and noticed "a dearth of spoken-word spots here in the city," he said.
Jennings, who had been part of the Tallahassee troupe, asked founder Keith Rogers if he could start a Tampa chapter of Black on Black Rhyme. While the name is a play on the term "black-on-black crime," the group welcomes poets and audience members of all ethnicities.
BOBR Tampa's current president is rapper-turned-full-time-poet L.I.F.E. (Living It for Everyone), who co-organizes the group's weekly open mike night. By his count, the group had held 416 such events as of Tuesday.
Through a dozen venue changes (the group currently meets at the Jerk Hut in Tampa) and problems with host sites over the years, BOBR Tampa has never taken a week off, he said.
As for the future of BOBR Tampa, L.I.F.E. hopes to expose more unknown poets and organize school poetry programs, giving teens in today's hip-hop culture a chance to choose the road less traveled.
"Poetry remains relevant because the talent is pure. The art is pure," said L.I.F.E. "For poets, though, if they ever achieve any significant kind of recognition, it's directly related to their talent. ... It's talent and hard work, both of which are respected by most people."
Black on Black Rhyme Tampa Week
The week ends with two live poetry events at Good Luck Cafe, 1910 E Seventh Ave. in Ybor City. At 8 p.m. Friday, catch Conscious Party, a show highlighting poets from BOBR Tampa's eight-year history; $5. Then at 8 p.m. Saturday it's Soul Clap, an event featuring BOBR Tallahassee; $10. Also check out BOBR Tampa's open mic night every Tuesday from 10 p.m. to about 12:30 a.m. at Jerk Hut, 926 E Fowler Ave., Tampa. Admission is $5 to $6 before 10 p.m. or $7 after. For more info, call L.I.F.E. at (813) 810-3582 or go to lifeizpoetry.com.