Patron. Volunteer. Student. Artist. Pervis Upshur closes his eyes, bunching his eyebrows in concentration, letting the words flow through him. Spoken word poetry comes effortlessly to him as he speaks his mind in rhyming stanzas for ten minutes.
Upshur, 39, has been coming to the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen for the past year, producing poetry and artwork. “I put stuff in my own writing that way that I understand it. And that’s my way of speaking to people.”
Alongside his poetry, Upshur finds comfort by expressing himself through rap, explaining that he wants for his rap to someday inspire and help people through their own trials in life.
“Rapping helps me to get my words rhyming together, and that helps me with my poetry,” said Upshur.
A lot of his inspiration is drawn from scenery and landscapes. His paintings are mostly comprised of wildlife: birds, kangaroos, butterflies. He described two of his favorite paintings he did a few weeks ago, one a composite painting of a girl morphed with a lady bug and another of multicolored fish swimming in a river.
“The people here tell me that art can be anything,” said Upshur. “Art doesn’t always have to be a drawing.”
Currently, Upshur is working on an abstract painting of colors. When he is done painting it he said that the people at TASK are going to help him frame it so that he can give it to his mother.
“A lot of other artists here inspire me too,” said Upshur. “My friend Derrick, he is an artist. He inspired me to draw too.” Upshur explained that he has known Derrick Branch for years. Branch, who is an artist with the A-TEAM and involved with the SHARE Performing Arts group at TASK, had first introduced Upshur to the art programs that TASK has to offer.
While Upshur greatly enjoys formulating his creative works, the great joy for him is when he gets the chance to share it with people, and for it to possibly help people with their own troubles.
“I get stuff off my mind that I would be thinking about when I draw or do poetry,” said Upshur. “And I think that if you are upset about something than be creative with it and share it with other people.”
Aside from poetry and artwork, Upshur said that his goal is to continue his education and eventually become a counselor. Currently, Upshur is a student in the TASK Adult Education Program.
“I just want to be a counselor to help all types of people — all types of people that need it…that have their hand out,” said Upshur. “That is why I go here because I want to go to college to become a counselor.”
Having graduated from the Daylight/Twilight Alternative High School (a four-year alternative public high school that serves students, grades nine through 12, in Mercer County), Upshur expressed that he felt like he still needed to work on his schooling before pursuing his dream of becoming a counselor. He said that he primarily needs to work on his reading and basic math skills, and that TASK has provided him with great tutors that are dedicated to pushing him and helping him.
“I see a lot of progress in myself because I am trying, I am pushing it, and I am putting in a lot of work in here,” said Upshur. “Other people encourage me too. Just by looking at them, by people talking to me and telling me to go ahead and go for it, try it. Never, never be afraid to try something out just because you think you can’t do it.”
If there is any advice to offer, Upshur encourages people to express what is on their minds, and for people to get out in the world and put to paper what they envision for themselves or what they are feeling at a particular moment in their life.
“I gained a lot of experience and that experience makes me want to keep on going,” said Upshur. “I am glad to be here at the soup kitchen.”
Trenton Area Soup Kitchen
Phone: 609-695-5456 72
Escher Street, Trenton, N.J. 08609
Article written by Shayna Innocenti for the Fall 2014 edition of The Wall