At the beginning of each performance, Speakfridays host and founder Robert Lee starts by reciting to newcomers and regulars alike the night’s catchphrase:
“Can I speak?,” Lee shouts. And the audience responds with a resounding, “Yes you can.” Started in 2006, Speakfridays has been a staple of Miami’s underground art and culture scene for the last 10 years. Originally located in a warehouse in the Bird Road Arts district, the show moved to Wynwood last year in search of larger accommodations.
“We moved out of necessity. We outgrew the physical space,” said Lee about the change of venue. “The lease came due and we decided not to renew. Wynwood was the logical move for us.”
For the commemorative 10th anniversary show, attendance was at full capacity. Tickets sold out online and guests waited in the hallway area inside the studio to see the show, with Lee joking with the audience about filling all available seating.
A former nightclub DJ, Lee was heavily influenced in mixing musical elements with spoken-word poetry. As the venue kept growing, he started to add stand-up comedy and traditional artists who would live-paint in front of the audience.
“I like the idea of almost a festival approach to life,” Lee said. “Whether the artists are brand new in their craft or professional people, everybody got to express themselves and build out this community.”
While the open-mic venue is open to all attendees who sign up at the box office, there are several regular performers and contributors fostering the community inside Speakfridays.
Erika Marrero, a Miami local known by her stage name “Poetic E,” has performed at Speakfridays for four years. It was her sister who motivated her to express her writing in front of an audience.
“What really keeps me going is [that] some girl came up to me after a piece on self-worth for women. I’ll never forget her. She hugged me and thanked me for the poem,” said Marrero, “So if one line, one word or one poem resonates with at least one person in the audience, then for me it’s worth being vulnerable to a crowd of people that I’ll never see again.”
Other creatives utilized Speakfridays for their artistic talents and form connections, such as with Miami painter Alexandra “Miss Lushy” Seda.
“[Speakfridays] was a platform for me to start showcasing my artwork,” Seda said. “It allowed me to feel free and to connect with other artists. I’ve sold some of the live paintings I’ve done, sold a lot of prints and portraits of hip-hop artists.”
Lee’s plan for the future is to network with reputable distributors. Most recently, Speakfridays collaborated with Comedy Central for an episode of “Kevin Hart Presents: Hart of the City,” a special airing later this summer.
Speakfridays Miami is held on the last Friday of the month inside The Light Box at Goldman Warehouse, 404 NW 26th Street. Doors open at 9 p.m. and admission is $10 at the door for general audience, $5 for performers. Visit Speakfridays Miami’s Facebook page for more details.