Sketches: Emanuelee "Outspoken" Bean (Video)
Cynics hold that when Outspoken Bean performs, which happens often in clubs and classrooms around Houston, he's little more than a fleeting presence on a single stage. His words may or may not resonate with his audience. Afterwards, he'll be left to ponder their effect, uncertain of whether they had any at all.
But Bean, 27, a master wordsmith and one of the world's top-ranked spoken word artists, sees things differently. When a friend pointed out the potential futility of his craft recently, he responded thus:
"My poem might not be creating immediate change, but its power lies in the fact that I'm willing to perform that poem anywhere," he said. "As in—anywhere! There's a reason that if you want to perform at Walmart they want to know what you're going to say. And I've lost gigs because I said 'I'm doing this poem no matter what.'"
A single poem can take months to write and memorize, and over the years he's performed his verses thousands of times. In addition to traveling the country performing, Bean is the head coach of Met-Four Houston, the city's premier youth poetry slam team and a project of Writers in the Schools. He has worked with Harris County Department of Education, the Texas Commission for the Arts, and the Houston Grand Opera.
"I wouldn't call myself an activist," he says, "but I do recognize that I perform in front of thousands of people."