I first heard of Luis Marrero creator of Voices In Power (VIP) the way I hear about a lot of folks…through twitter. Someone retweeted a request for poems for the Voices In Power website. I went to his site. I first heard Mr. Marrero at an event titled Word of Mouth last October. He was the MC for the event and graciously wrapped up the event with an original piece of his own. I sent an email. I first met Luis on an unusually quiet Saturday morning in a coffee shop in center city Philadelphia. He declined my offer for a beverage, took a seat, and admitted his nerves were trying to get the best of him. I assured him there was no need to be nervous. It’s just an interview. Just a compilation of words. And we both knew that he knows words.
An hour later, nerves clearly calmed, he was extending thanks for my interest in his work and I was extending thanks for his time and sharing his journey with me and allowing me to phind out about Luis Marrero of Voices In Power.
Phreedum: How did VIP get started?
LM: I started Voices In Power when I moved back east from Vegas. I was doing a poetry slam out there. I didn’t have a job when I came back, so I figured I would try the poetry here. My first show was at Barnes and Noble in Deptford, New Jersey in April of 2011 and it just kept growing.
Phreedum: I’ve noticed that you do regular events with a team of people, tell me about that.
LM: Since April I’ve been fortunate to build an amazing team of artists. There are 10 artists who are a part of Voices In Power and their talents vary. The team has a comedian, photographer, drummer, and 7 poets. We have been able to host about two events a month since April, including our own monthly event the third Sunday of the month at the Head House, other events for nonprofit organizations, and a college tour.
Phreedum: You and the team have done a lot in only a few months. That’s pretty cool. So beyond clearly being creative and passionate about your craft, who is Luis Marrero in 5 words?
LM: Poet, business, family-oriented, ambitious, and hungry.
Phreedum: Why spoken word?
LM: I’ve been writing since 6th grade. I started out with aspirations to be a rapper. In 8th grade I shifted to poetry. A teacher submitted a poem I wrote for a competition and I won. The piece was called "Colors of Life" and was my first published work. After high school I became more public with my poetry.
Phreedum: What has been a highlight for you since starting VIP?
LM: One of the events we got to be a part of was a fundraising event for The Children’s Heritage Foundation. It was a really great event, but I think what made it such a highlight was receiving the invitation for us to be a part of the event. VIP didn’t have to ask to be a part. One of the founders heard about us, followed us, saw our growth, and invited us to be a part of their event.
Phreedum: What do you consider to be your greatest resource?
LM: Myself. I try to attend a lot of events with like minded people to learn and network. I do all that I can do to build VIP. To be honest I never saw myself doing this because I am naturally a shy person. However, since VIP has grown and I want it to keep growing I push myself to open up, approach people, and learn all that I can.
Phreedum: You mentioned earlier that you are a part of a team. Talk to me about what you think is important to being a part of an effective team?
LM: Number one would be communication. You have to have good communication when you are a part of a team. We work really hard at this. I’d also say trust and loyalty. I think it’s important that you can trust the team is loyal to whatever the goal is. We trust that everyone who is a part of the team is committed to what is best for VIP. Lastly, I would say hunger. Whatever the goal is, everyone has to want it just as bad as the next. Hunger builds strength because people will do whatever it takes, and a team is only as strong as its weakest person.
Phreedum: Who would you say is your greatest source of support?
LM: DiAndre Brown. I’ve known him for about 7 or 8 years now and I say he’s my brother. He’s always had my back and when I started VIP he was the first person to join the team.
Phreedum: I like to think that for as original as entrepreneurs are, they are often inspired by a fellow creative type. Who inspires you?
LM: Common Ground Management. They are three young Black men who are very intelligent ambitious, and genuine. They hit me up on twitter to host their Word of Mouth Event that was held in October. I really appreciated being asked to host, that they trusted me to carry their event. The event was great and I just have a lot of respect for them. I definitely look up to them.
Phreedum: What’s the best advice you have received while building VIP?
LM: Remain humble. Before VIP I was a bit arrogant. I think with whatever your passion is, as you pursue it you have to believe you are the best. That kind of confidence helps you keep self doubt at a minimum and to keep pursuing your passion. But, I used to claim I was the best, and I’m not. Success can really blow up your head. It’s cool to perfect your craft, to do well, and have successful moments, but you can’t be prideful. You have to stay humble.
Phreedum: So the old Luis was a little arrogant. Interesting. What would you tell the old Luis Marrero of 10 years ago?
LM: Pay attention in school. I used to stay in trouble in school. That’s part of why my mom moved out of Philly to Jersey. I would write inside, but outside the house most of the time I was reckless and getting into some kind of trouble. I would tell myself to stay focused and stay out of the streets.
Phreedum: How does VIP change the lives of others?
LM: I have had people tell me that attending a VIP event has changed the way they have thought about things or just encouraged them to get back to writing. One of the VIP team member’s fiancé’s shared her daughter attended an event and asked her how she could be a part of it. I think the words and the work of VIP artists inspires and challenges people in a variety of ways on a variety of levels. I also think our monthly events give people something to look forward to other than the club/party scene.
Phreedum: You host your monthly events here in Philly and I’ve seen you at events here in Philly. Why so much love from VIP for Philadelphia?
LM: I tried to start in Jersey with the goal of bringing some of the Philly culture to Jersey. After the first two shows in Jersey, the events were harder to draw a crowd. I think that was because the venue I was at had all kinds of restrictions. When in Philly, there is a lot more freedom. Not to mention Philadelphia has a rich history of artistic talent and culture. However, I do think Philly has been getting a bad rap and I want VIP to be a part of bringing back the beauty and enhancing the artistic community here.
Phreedum: Last question, if VIP were to be compared to a Harlem Renaissance Poet, who would it be and why?
LM: If VIP was to be compared to a Harlem Renaissance poet, hands down it would be May Miller. In addition to being a talented poet, she was an educator and a play write. Like VIP, we are beyond words. I believe our words on paper manifest into teachings for our listeners and visual plays in the minds of the audience.
For more information about Luis Marrerro and Voices In Power visit www.voicesinpower.com or follow Luis on Twitter @ImSuperDope_