Jamila “JAM Poet” Wimberly is a local poet, author, and community organizer. She grew up in East Las Vegas, and has a degree in Literary Studies from New York Cities prestigious New School University.
She is also founder and host of The Jam LV – a weekly open mic night in Las Vegas’ downtown Arts District. For the last two years, The Jam has been a safe space for local artists to share their craft, develop their performance style, network, and bring the community together.
“We welcome and invite anyone with artistic talent to share their story with us – musicians, comedians, poets, dancers, rappers,” said Poet. “It starts with love first, no hate speech allowed, no booing, we are built on a foundation of respecting the mic and making sure everyone is heard.”
Poet was formerly the host of Las Vegas’ longest running open mic night The Human Experience, founded by DJ Miss Joy, until it ended in 2018. It’s departure left a need for a new open mic to materialize, she started The Jam the following November.
“I wanted to invite every type of artist to come together and have fun together, I felt like our community was missing that,” she said.
The Jam quickly became a local phenomenon. Referred to as “The Church,” it garnered a large following of “Jam Fans” that were committed to showing up each week.
“It caught on fire because it’s authentic and genuine, and you can feel the love when you walk in the door, anyone who shows up for the first time can acknowledge that when they walk up. It’s a love experience.”
Poet, who balances a full-time job, and her own poetry career juggles many tasks as The Jam’s main organizer. Her duties include talking to artists, booking feature performers, making flyers, scheduling touring acts, booking food trucks, managing the calendar, and coordinating with other team members to ensure each show was curated perfectly,
“Lots of hats I was wearing,” said Poet. “It was a lot of work, but it was a lot of fun.”
Before the pandemic, The Jam had a steady routine. Weekly sessions were held every Monday night at Ninja Karaoke, they hosted First Friday editions of their show during summer, and they held an awards show called The Jammys at the end of the year.
Last year, they held 57 shows in 52 weeks… And then 2020 happened – abruptly halting all of the in-person live sessions. Despite not being able to meet in the same way they once were, Poet was still committed to continue The Jam virtually.
“Having live entertainment being so restricted, we had to come up with a new and safe way to jam. Moving our platform online was cool, but we recognize it’s still missing something,” said Poet.
On Monday, August 31 they held their first in-person jam since the pandemic hit. It was reserved for ‘Artists Only,’ and held at downtown’s 11th Street Records – adjusting their model to a part virtual and part in-person experience.
“The mission was to bring a few artists together, livestream their performances, and bring the best experience possible for people to view the show from home without having to risk the pandemic,” she said.
They curated a show with high production value, professional sound quality, and awe-inducing visuals, Monday’s ‘Artists Only’ session was a remarkable success.
“The comments were going off, the hearts were going off,” said Poet. “People are missing that energy that you can only get from seeing something live, and we did a good job at transmitting the live experience virtually.”
Not only was it a positive shared experience for the community, but bringing her tight-knit group of artists back together to share their art was “on the verge of being indescribable,” according to Poet.
“Imagine people you’ve seen every day for the last year – you work together, create together, and suddenly 2020 hits and we haven’t been able to see each other,” she said. “It was a beautiful home for me, it was something neither of us will ever forget.”
“The scene at The Jam is different because we do care about one another, and I think the Vegas arts scene does a good job at lifting each other up,” said Poet.
As far as the future goes, The Jam will be holding two monthly sessions – one virtually, and one for artists only. Make sure to follow The Jam LV on Facebook and Instagram, to watch their live streams and receive updates.
To support other local artists in the community, make sure to follow some integral members of The Jam: Beverly Chillz @beverly.chillz, Darko @sheisdarko, Smokey Tone @thesmokeytone, Lurk Franklin @lurk_franklin, and Jam Poet herself @Jam_Poet.