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Harold Green, the Poet Who Performed for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Shares Journey

 Harold Green performed at Mayor Rahm Emanuel's swearing-in ceremony.
Harold Green performed at Mayor Rahm Emanuel's swearing-in ceremony.
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Photo by Pierre Henderson

ENGLEWOOD — Spoken word artist Harold Green said he doesn’t sugarcoat anything in his work.

“I’m not here to sugarcoat anything, or move no agendas, or make you feel any type of way so you can feel a certain way about me,” Green said. “If you connect, you connect.”

Green, 30, grew up in Englewood and is married with a 6-year-old and a 7-month-old. He said his goal is to go global. He’s working on his second book — the first one is “From Englewood, with Love.”

He also just performed for Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s swearing-in ceremony.

Harold Green speaks at the 27:30 mark.

Emanuel’s press secretary, Tarrah Cooper, said Green was selected after the mayor heard him perform at Mount Vernon Missionary Baptist Church, 2622 W. Jackson Blvd.

“He was really impressed by Harold’s courage and message as a father and wanted all of Chicago to hear that message,” Cooper said.

Green has been writing and performing for about 10 years, but his introduction to poetry started when he was young. His father used to write poems for him and his sister. His career started after persuasion from his sister when he was 18 years old.

“I was broke one Christmas,” Green said, adding that he had spent his money on shoes.

“I didn’t know what I was going to get for my family, for my mother, father, my sister, so I ended up writing all three of them poems. My sister kept pushing, like ‘Harold you need to keep doing this, this is good.’”

He said that up until that point he would write rhymes and raps. He started writing poetry because he knew he could rhyme, he said.

He began reciting poems at church and when he went to Grambling State University, he would perform. Green quickly realized he had talent.

“Some artists are very regional, like you can have artists that Chicago really relates to, or West Coast, East Coast, but I think when you can galvanize individuals from all over, I think you’ve found something that works,” he said. “So in my mind I was like ‘Yep, this is probably what I should continue to do.”

Latasha Benn, 33, lives in Irving Park and has been a supporter and fan of Green for eight years.

“I’ve followed him since he was with a poetry group called Verbal Balance,” she said, describing him as “soulful, fun and artistic.”

After a recent performance at the Promontory, 5311 S. Lake Park Ave., Benn said, “Harold Green is an amazing artist, and I love how he was able to get all this talent in one space, in one night.”

Green said his inspiration comes from everywhere and that a couple of years ago he challenged himself to write a poem every day for a year.

He’s had opportunities to perform in other cities and said Chicago's arts scene is a lot tougher.

“I think we are very skeptical, we're very suspicious; you have to prove to us, and I think that really comes from us having such great individuals at our fingertips at all times,” Green said.

“Because Chicago is such a unique place, I think that what happens is we’re so used to great, used to exceptional, that we’ll be like 'That was cool, I'll clap.'"

But he said he’s always up for the challenge. If a certain crowd isn’t responding the way he’d like, he’ll try something different.

Green said cities like Atlanta are drastically different.

“I think they’ve been groomed to support their artists,” he said.

As an Englewood native, he has an opinion on Spike Lee’s controversial upcoming film with the so-called title “Chiraq.”

He doesn’t like it.

“I‘m not a fan of the terminology ‘Chiraq.’ I’ve never been a fan of it,” he said.

“I feel like if you continuously put negative titles on a certain group of people, or certain sector or region, they begin to embody that, so whatever the angle is, and I know he’s saying it’s a positive angle, whatever is being said, I think that continuously propelling that title is a little dangerous.”

Green said he’s working on his next show for Flowers for the Living, and he’s making a video for Father’s Day. He'll recite a poem called “When I Grow Up.”

Follow him on Twitter and like him on Facebook.

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