Open Mic, Open Minds, and Dim Lights in Pomona

Pictured+left+to+right%3A+Co-founders%2C+Emcee+Cory+Besskepp+Cofer+and+DJ+James+JB+Brady.+Photos+by+Pablo+Unzueta%2F+SAConScene

Pictured left to right: Co-founders, Emcee Cory “Besskepp” Cofer and DJ James “JB” Brady. Photos by Pablo Unzueta/ SAConScene

Da Center for The Arts in Pomona is a three-story venue of open space that doubles as an art gallery during the day and a space for live acts to perform at night. What was previously a brightly lit art gallery during the day turned into a dimly lit venue with a single spotlight on the microphone.

Cory “Besskepp” Cofer, 42, arrived early to Da Center for The Arts in Pomona to set up the stage area with art pieces for his event, A Mic and Dim Lights. Cofer is a resource specialist who works with children who have special needs at Telesis Academy of Science and Math by day and an HBO Def Jam featured poet by night.

Resident disc jockey and co-founder of A Mic and Dim Lights, James “JB” Brady, 43, is seen off in the corner setting up speakers and picking out beats to set the tone for the evening. Along with Cofer, the two have welcomed crowds of all ages into their event to share art and express themselves.

The open mic that originally started as a few friends who felt they needed to open a safe space in the Inland Empire for artists to express themselves has now turned into a staple in the downtown Arts Colony of Pomona. With a crowd that has grown over the years, a venue change from Millenia Arts Lounge to Da Center for The Arts was made in order to seat more people during the event. A Mic and Dim Lights celebrated 16 years of operation in October.

“What kept us going so long was that consistency JB and I put forward to keep it going,” Cofer said.

A Mic and Dim Lights hosted a Ladies Night, and while males were welcomed to come watch and support their female counterparts, only women were allowed on the microphone. As a token of appreciation and a way to pay it forward, all performers were given a gift bag full of feminine essentials to pass on to a woman in need in the community.

“There are so many talented people in the Inland Empire and we wanted to provide a safe space for all to be heard,” Cofer said.

The night provided a list full of women who varied in age and race and were brave enough to share their personal stories of heartbreak, family ties, and political opinions with a room full of strangers.

“A Mic and Dim Lights has helped me find my voice,” featured poet of the night Kat Magill, 35, said.

Magill, who cited A Mic and Dim Lights as one of her inspirations to continue writing poetry, also started a youth program focused on poetry. Her program, Say Word L.A., helps young people find their own voices via spoken word poetry.

A Mic and Dim Lights has impacted youths throughout the Inland Empire. Young people who have attended the event since its inception have grown up and are now giving back to their community through non-profit organizations. They have been directly inspired by the open mic and are working toward “exposing poetry and spoken word to schools,” Cofer said.

Each open mic averages 15-20 people who read and share their art with many more attendees in the audience.

“Our greatest accomplishment is the day we started,” Cofer said.

According to its Facebook page, A Mic and Dim Lights is held every first Thursday of the month from 9:30 p.m. until 11:30 p.m. and has a $5 entry fee at Da Center for The Arts in Pomona.