Her stage name is Honeycomb, but the dazzling spoken word poet, Tawana Petty, wears her ‘real’ name and lives her ‘real’ life in rugged authenticity here in Detroit. She first appeared on my radar as the real life Tawana Petty, a poor working mom, who rocked the Occupy movement when she fired off a Dear Protestors letter that got an avalanche of comments, likes and shares in a Facebook meme (later landing on HuffingtonPost)
In that post, entitled “Why a Single, Struggling, Partially Employed, Barely Mobile, Black Mother Of A Teenage Son Has Yet To Occupy,” she coolly recited her state of affairs in a very matter-of-fact way saying, “I don’t have a pot to piss in. I live with relatives, my car that I still pay a car note on is down, I take a nearly 2 hour bus ride into the City everyday to work part-time.” Adding that she’s raising a son and has no assets she summed up, “I am as “occupied” as one can get.”
Rebuking any tone of self-pity she went on to appeal to Occupy organizers (speaking to “Occupiers” generally, not just to Detroit’s version) to reach into their ‘deepest level of humanity.” She pointed to power-jockeying within the movement and her own conflict of wanting to be in solidarity as an occupier but was faced with the everyday struggle to maintain her and her son’s marginalized survival. Her sentiments hit a nerve in asserting that she was looking for “freedom from oppression, not a politically correct newer version of it.” Spoken with the honesty and poignancy that I have come to know as her hallmark, Tawana Petty signed the letter, “With much love and respect, #occupiedout.”
It was by accident that I stumbled across her spoken word as a result of asking to friend her on Facebook. If you’re a FB person, you know how that goes – you see a spirited comment by someone responding to a post on your FB stream and follow-up with a friend request. In fact, her comment has stuck with me: “I love my life, it’s the circumstances that I’m not liking so much.”
Inspired by that, I dug deeper finding her FB meme and her poetry. In my FB request I gushed, “I’m a fan of your verse and would like to friend you!” She answered with zeal, “Thank you so much!” And noting she was near her FB friends quota said, “I will delete someone so that I may add you. Much Love …”
As the spoken word artist, Honeycomb, her work oozes with a deep wisdom arising from an otherworldly understanding. It’s clear that Honeycomb is Tawana Petty’s alter ego; the one that takes the stage to rhythmically detail life on Detroit’s gritty streets. I’m posting one of my favorites here, “She Had.”
Ever since our initial FB contact, we’ve had a continued personal FB dialogue and a couple phone calls. We’re culturally different (me – middle-aged white, her – young and black) but so simpatico in our understanding that one’s self-worth – or lack of it – steers our destiny. In the subtext of her exquisite poetry is everything that this women-based project, Shetroit, embraces: Learn to believe in ourselves, heal our own wounds, own our own self-worth. This is the place from which all possibilities can spring.
To that end, Tawana Honeycomb Petty tirelessly works and mothers while she stirs the limitless boundaries of her amplified poetic soul. Recognition of her talent is growing and her venues become more frequent and varied. She’s also recently released a book, Introducing Honeycomb, that should help fuel her career and make her a more potent champion for those she so passionately portrays in her verse. Honeycomb and I, we’ve not met yet, but I look forward to that day.