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Open hearts at open mic: every Thursday at Peace and A Cup of Joe’s

“Twerk wave” is the new term to describe a group of people who begin twerking when singer and songwriter Kyana (@imkyana on Instragram) is performing, according to the man sitting in front of me at Peace and A Cup Of Joe’s weekly open mic night. I can’t help but to almost choke on my orange spice tea when he says this, and I am not the only one in the audience who giggles at the new phrase.

A brown-haired waitress in a blue t-shirt has a smile like a crescent moon – she laughs at the twerking joke as she carries empty bowls from the front of the shop to the back. For the last nine years, this Baltimore coffee shop has held open mics each Thursday night.

The main host, Marc, first began the open mic with his friends Kevin and Chuck. The trio creates and performs their own music, but also plays background music for open mic performers. Marc was inspired to begin open mics as a way for up-and-coming Baltimore creatives to get their work noticed. Kevin is a life-long musician who has performed overseas. Chuck masters poetry and beat boxing, as well as being an MC artist and DJ.

The open mic begins around 9 p.m. and runs until 11 p.m. There is a $10 donation to attend, but it is well worth the change to support a local coffee shop and the local artists who are courageous enough to perform. Peace and A Cup of Joe offers food (including vegetarian options), pastries, coffee and teas, in addition to being a BYOB venue during open mic events.

The atmosphere of the shop is welcoming and supportive, especially for artists looking to expand their talents. Marc advocates for audience members to buy CDs or donate money to help musical artists finance making CDs, but not in an overbearing, intrusive manner where you feel obligated to donate money if you do not want to.

First time performers are praised and encouraged. Last Thursday, a young girl performed poetry for the first time. She read an amazing poem about a lover. Although she was initially timid about reading, the audience cheered her on, begging for a second poem; the girl’s face lit up with joy as she agreed to read another poem. Anyone is welcome to perform, but the sign-up sheet fills quickly so it is best to arrive early if you intend to get a spot in front of the microphone.

Ryan Manceri, a junior English and Education double major at UMBC, said the event is “a hidden gem of Baltimore City.” Right after he said this, the waitress in the blue shirt from earlier rushes up by the mic and begins twerking, if only for a moment,and the entire coffee shop burst into laughter.

From the atmosphere and the performers, it is clear that Peace and A Cup of Joe’s open mic night is a great addition to the city’s rich creative spirit.