Blue Owl Coffee has always been rooted in community – crafting a welcoming space for all kinds of creativity, according to owners Nick Berry, Rich Whitman and Adam Klein. Since opening Blue Owl’s East Lansing location, that community spirit has been on display during the shop’s The Mic Drop, an open mic night run Wednesdays from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.
The weekly event series had been taking place in person at the shop, but thanks to COVID-19, The Mic Drop has gone digital. Spoken-poetry artist, All of the Above Hip Hop member, and host of the Mic Drop, Alexis Rosado, spoke with ELi about her idea to keep the show going to provide a safe space for creatives.
“I couldn’t sleep one night, and was really thinking through ways to continue executing all the things I love doing with the skills I have,” Rosado said. “I have a degree in Broadcast Journalism, and I do video work for a living, so I already knew that making this show digital was possible because I had considered it in the past to make it more accessible.”
The span of time from the idea stage to execution stage was just a few days. She quickly looked up software and tested the audio. The Mic Drop is in partnership with and funded through All of the Above (AOTA) Hip Hop Academy, so Rosado reached out to AOTA leader Ozay Moore for the okay to go digital.
“I messaged some of our regular performers, asked them for a date and time to record,” Rosado said. “We recorded it that Wednesday that we would normally meet in person, and I edited it in 24 hours.”
Using the popular conference-call service Zoom, Rosado said, provided the best audio and visual options. This was the first time the Mic Drop was not a face-to-face event since its inception last April, but about a hundred people watched the video in 24 hours of uploading. After a week online, about 230 people have seen the video uploaded on March 18.
“The response has been fantastic and so refreshing,” Rosado said. “It’s received hundreds of views, and I’m getting a lot of messages of people interested in performing.”
Just as the weekly event series has become synonymous with providing a platform for people of all ages to showcase their comedy, poetry, rap, music, dance, and more, the digital edition aims to foster that same sense of support.
“The culture created at the Mic Drop is very much like gathering as a family, and pouring out our hearts,” Rosado said. “It has taken me so much vulnerability, honesty, intentionality, and time to create an atmosphere for people to pour out their hearts.”
Rosado said that canceling the weekly event temporarily was simply not an option.
“I knew for some of these artists that this was a lifeline of community, and for me, it’s a responsibility to continue to lead as a host – not meeting was not going to stop the momentum I started.”
So far, the show has gone on digitally for two weeks in a row, with four or five performers each week, rather than the usual lineup of twelve. Audiences also get to learn a little bit more about the artists, in a more intimate show than typical.
The added accessibility is something Rosado is appreciative for in this digital age.
“What I think this newfound platform allows is for more eyes to see the amazing talent we have always had in our backyard, more accessibility to those who may have missed it, entertainment and an outlet from the comfort of someone’s home,” she said. “Creatives matter, their craft matters, their ideas and voice matter.”
In the future, Rosado hopes the Mic Drop can continue to showcase artists in this digital platform for weeks to come, if they receive proper sponsorship funding. There’s even been correspondence to book special guests all over the world – including an email sent to Ellen DeGeneres.
Regardless of when the series can return to its usual coffee shop setting, The Mic Drop’s mission to encourage self-expression and a sense of belonging will not be canceled anytime soon.
“I love artists,” Rosado said. “I think profound expressions can change the world, and unify us more than ever before.”
The March 18 recording can be viewed here. Interested artists are encouraged to reach out to Rosado (via Facebook alexis.rosado.395 or via Instagram @lovingwithlexi) to join in on the weekly Mic Drop digital edition. Artists can send in a video submission or participate in the Zoom video chat call in real-time with other performers.
This story is part of ELi’s special series on “Little Local Joys” – stories of how people here are finding joy and solace during the stay-at-home order and pandemic. Find the whole series here.