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RECIPE: Lyrical Ambush

Define and provide a framework for recreating a Lyrical Ambush.  GPI recipes are based on the DC experience (with San Francisco inspiration) and designed as guides, there are no rules.

An amplified poetry/spoken word/hip hop open mic held in a public space featuring voices, drums/musical instruments, sidewalk chalk, bubbles, and noisemakers — all available for public use.  Bikes, dancers and other forms of artistic expression always welcome.  Lyrical Ambushes create a family friendly festival-like atmosphere, while filling the airwaves with progressive political messaging on themes such as racism, social justice, war vs. peace, corporate domination vs. meaningful democracy, the “war on drugs” and the misuse of fear to degrade civil liberties, etc.  Ambushes consist of picking a time and a place, attracting a diverse set of artists and putting on a show of artistic resistance composed of whoever shows up.


Rotating Mic — The multiplicity of voices generates the power of the Ambush.  Ambushes change voices frequently featuring multiple generations, races, and social classes.  For instance, a five-year old may sing her ABC’s, after a homeless man shares his reality, and artists from a rainbow of colors, styles and experience spit poetry about their world perspectives.  Frequenting and core guerrillas defer to new voices fostering a space of welcome and opportunity.  Artists cycle through, coming back to the mic several times over the course of an ambush, reading one piece at a time.

Building CommunityWhile a core group is needed to coordinate and populate a Lyrical Ambush, the ambush’s strength is constant outreach to, and incorporation of, new, would-be and should-be artists, offering opportunities to contribute voices and organizing energy. Collaborating with other groups is highly recommended.

Active Engagement –  The GPI invites participation by actively engaging those who linger, sharing homemade shakers and direct conversation about why we are there, intentionally blurring the line between audience and artist.

Artists as Artillery in Public Space — One way to conceptualize the action model is as “push marketing” for political perspectives in real space, similar to spam and pop-up advertisements for commercial interests in cyberspace.  Ambushes occur on streets, in trains, malls, anywhere with high pedestrian traffic, actively challenging the worldviews of people otherwise insulated from progressive critique.


Amplification — Consistency of action, type of public space, number of drummers, number of individuals who can transport equipment, and preference are among the considerations dictating size, strength and type of amplification (e.g., San Francisco uses none).

Drums/Musical Instruments — If you choose to include drums, having at least 2-4 solid drummers in the crew is extremely beneficial.  Other musical instruments work as well – simply remember to listen.

Sidewalk Chalk, Bubbles, Homemade Shakers — These tools bring forth the festival so everyone, especially the kids, can participate in the Ambush.

Permit — This is optional and applies mostly to ambushes in public parks.  Having a permitted event, in theory, offers you increased credibility and protection from local authorities looking to limit your free speech rights.

The DC Guerrilla Poetry Insurgency (GPI) is an anti-authoritarian, collaborative, pro-humanity artists' collective incorporating music, rhythm, spoken word, community and resistance.

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