K Love The Poet Finds Sugar In The Salt

Photos by  Tony Cash

Photos by Tony Cash

Smart-mouthed girls are the shit. From politics and social justice, to social media, and everywhere in between, smart-mouthed girls offer unapologetic remarks serving up doses of quick wit, knowledge and criticisms of injustice, bringing the noise for those who can hardly whisper for themselves (see Angela Davis, Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni for reference). In Chicago, one smart-mouthed girl in particular, K Love the Poet, is demonstrating her prowess in spoken word. From her beginnings as a smart-mouthed girl to youth programs, to her viral videos, her recently released book and upcoming international tour, K Love the Poet is out to prove that smart-mouthed girls are here to save the day.

It’s about understanding and re-understanding what self love is...

Kendria “K Love the Poet” Harris, was a smart-mouthed black girl from the very start, “I knew that I had a smart mouth!” Reminiscing about how often adults would comment on her outrageous statements, K Love laughs and recalls “‘What?! You and that mouth!’ If I had a dollar for everytime somebody in my family said that to me!” K Love smiles and laughs at the potential inappropriateness of her commentary, but decides to refrain. “On some levels they attempted to silence me … [but] I think it was very interesting to them, why this little person [possessed] this audacity to say what she felt…[and]  in the most inopportune moments!” K Love developed her natural gift for wordplay, blunt honesty and wit as she got older, and soon got her start in poetry. “I started writing poetry in high school and I did it to entertain my friends, it wasn't an extreme passion of mine…” In the beginning, poetry as an art form or career was not something K Love thought to pursue. It wasn't until she experienced teenage heartbreak that she received the wake up calls necessary to guide her to her next stage as a poet.

At the tail end of a relationship with an ambitious young rapper, K Love was given a reality check. “He was like, ‘You need to find you something to do!’” Pitch rising, K Love imitated her young, baffled self.“I was all, ‘What do you mean?! I have something to do! You!” Looking back, the realization that opportunities might have been lost due to her obsession with young love struck a nerve with K Love. Her second encounter with love occurred on New Year’s Eve 2002 during a first date to an open mic at Giovanni’s in Dolton. However, her love was for something other than who she was with. “When I came in, I saw the candles lit, people getting up, reciting their poetry, I remember saying to myself, ‘Oh I could do this for the rest of my life!’“ Totally taken by the atmosphere and powerful performances, K Love knew what she wanted to do next. 

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"Honesty is therapeutic to me, having the liberty to say exactly what’s real and not be afraid of the consequences is a blessing."

—K Love

A month later at the same open mic night in Dolton, K Love the Poet boldy performed a piece titled, ‘If I was a Blunt’, capturing  the attention of her audience with the title alone. Reciting an honest, comedic, heartbreaking portrayal of her emotional neglect, K Love took listeners on a personal journey with metaphors and realness and rhyme scheme. “Everything I ever write is a reflection of me.” The poem’s lesson resonated with women and men alike,“I got such a great response, I didn’t realize until that moment that so many people share the same type of feelings… The women in the room were like ‘ Yes, girl! Yes!’ The guys in the room were just thoroughly entertained by like, how many different metaphors that I used, describing if I was a blunt.” The success of, ‘If I Was a Blunt’ garnered a growing following for the smart mouth K Love. “It was a good feeling... I was attracted to the feeling you get from feeling like you’ve been heard...” 

K Love became intoxicated with the feeling of being heard and understood by so many, a feeling that magnified immensely once her Facebook video, ‘Million Dollar Melanin’ reached one million views. An ode to self love in a world that seems to embrace colorism, “Million Dollar Melanin” is a proclamation for dark-skinned black girls to shout from the mountain tops. “I was down in Arkansas for a funeral… I got myself dressed up and I was sitting in a car looking at myself in the mirror and I felt pretty… I wasn’t trying to go viral.” Yet, on a sunny July afternoon in 2015, that’s just what K Love accomplished. She sat waiting in her vehicle parked, and decided to share with her Facebook friends and family a piece that was written in 2014. The publicly posted poem tackles colorism head on. In it, viewers experienced the ferocious, confident, sultry delivery of K Love’s love letter to her own dark skin. “My skin is rich/I got that million dollar melanin/ I’m talkin about that deep chocolate/The Prophets be dreamin’ about sellin’ in/ Every element is elegant/It’s effortless/ There’s no need for embellishment... ”. The video was shared over 48 thousand times. 

Since the success of “Million Dollar Melanin”, K Love’s following continues to grow, especially with young black youth. However, her influence with Chicago’s black youth began long before K Love’s work as a poet. K Love explains, “It’s always been that, like my mother will tell you,...  [when] I was 11 ...every saturday there’d be like 4, 5, Six year olds knocking on our door.” Possessing a natural desire to teach and nurture, K Love was  a stand in mother/ big sister to younger children in her neighborhood. As an adult, K Love the Poet and mentorship partner Phenom established LYRIC (Let Your Rhymes Inspire Creativity), a mentorship program for Chicago’s youth. LYRIC is described as an “Out-of-pocket mentoring organization using hip-hop and spoken word to teach character development and community activism.”(LYRIC Facebook) For almost a decade, the LYRIC program ran successfully with no funding from government assistance. Hailed as the most successful,  impactful mentorship program on the South side of Chicago, over 300 of Chicago’s youth completed the program. 

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"Smart Mouth Girls is more than a book... it’s the notion that smart-mouthed girls become some of the most powerful leaders, thinkers and speakers because they have powerful weaponry"

— K Love

After passing LYRIC over to her young adult mentees in 2017, K Love shifted focus to her own, home-based Princess Program. Beginning in 2014,  The Princess Program (Powerful Respectable Intelligent Noble Conscious-Minded Empathetic Sisteren Students) teaches younger girls from pre-k through elementary school how to recognize all aspects of their beauty, inside and out, and to recognize the power of self love and sovereign within. The Princess Program also encourages young girls to speak up for themselves and their peers. “Instead of silencing them, point them in a direction where [their honesty] is acceptable.”
Having a smart mouth, in K Love’s opinion, is a weapon that young girls often misuse, or are discouraged from using. “I’ve dedicated my life to taking on the smart mouth girls of the world, and teach them how to use their weapon in a good way! You don’t have to use it with your parents and get popped in the mouth, you don’t have to disrespect teachers, there’s a place ... to use it...why not introduce little girls to activism, or theatre...”  K Love understands how crucial mentorship and advise is to the growth of a smart mouthed girl. 

K Love’s first book, Poster Girl, is comprised of a series of her most popular poems and social media posts. A quick read similar to a daily devotional, Poster Girl provides  brilliant wordplay and thought-provoking insight, providing mentorship through her social media voice.Her next project, For Smart Mouth Girls,  sourced K Love’s more than five thousand followers for inspiration, using their  feedback and survey responses to piece her concept together. For Smart Mouth Girls is a compilation of positive affirmations, chants and songs that provide girls the structure, support and guidance necessary to wield her smart mouth responsibly. "Smart Mouth Girls is more than a book... it’s the notion that smart-mouthed girls become some of the most powerful leaders, thinkers and speakers because they have powerful weaponry, they just haven’t been taught how to use it.” 

Instead of silencing them, point them in a direction where [their honesty] is acceptable.

Utilizing rhymes and games, the book addresses critical topics not usually associated with a children’s book. One example is a hand clapping game similar to Ms. Mary Mack, titled ‘Black Hands’, in which smart-mouthed girls are challenged to sing, rhyme and clap about supporting black-owned businesses in their communities. The book also addresses molestation, an issue in the black community that has historically been swept under the rug. “I want it to make sure that molestation is a conversation we have out loud, it’s not a quiet thing” The poem “My Body is Mine” is very emphatic and deliberate, designed to arm young black girls with proclamations of self awareness, self love and culture identity. Her ultimate goal is to make Smart Mouth Girls a movement that will drive girls to be honestly unapologetic. “Honesty is therapeutic to me, having the liberty to say exactly what’s real and not be afraid of the consequences is a blessing.” 

With her multiple successes, K Love shows no sign of stopping her progress. The only woman billed on the Future Wife tour, K Love is expected to uplift, encourage and inspire smart-mouthed girls with every stop to know their worth. “It’s about understanding and re-understanding what self love is...My position on this is to speak more on how we’re so focused on being a wife that we don’t become a whole person.” The tour hosted by Ace Metaphor, kicks off June 22nd in Detroit and continues on 43 more dates ending in January 2019 in London England. With upcoming books, continuing mentorships, and other projects in the works, K Love intends on leaving behind a legacy of love.“I pride myself on being able to love the unlovable… if you can learn how to do that, if you can find the sugar in the salt, you will be successful at this life thing.”