Listen & Be Heard Poetry Cafe
Listen & Be Heard Poetry Café closing its doors
VALLEJO – The Listen & Be Heard Poetry Café, run by husband and wife poets Tony and Martha Mims, is closing its doors for the final time Saturday afternoon, March 29. While the café has helped spawn the careers of local poets, musicians, and comedians, the devastated economy of Vallejo has made it impossible to keep the Mims’s dreams alive of providing local artists with a physical place to explore their creativity. “It’s disappointing but a bit of a relief to be honest because Tony and I have been working so hard these past three years,” Mims said. “The promises of downtown Vallejo have not been fulfilled.

“There was talk of new condos being built and new development on the waterfront and the downtown economic revitalization was supposed to be led by the arts. None of that has happened. Still, we feel like we’ve accomplished a lot in these last three years and contributed to our community, but it’s time to move on.”

The Mims insist that the ideas behind the café are not going anywhere. Listen & Be Heard sponsored several events before there was a café and they will continue to do so. In addition, their online newsletter will continue to be a virtual clearinghouse for the creative community. The impact of the café on those striving to have their art pass from their imagination into the popular consciousness is undeniable. Numerous artists have gotten their start, received invaluable experience and were plugged into a network of artistic people through the café. “We’ve worked with so many people — musicians, comedians, artists and a host of poets and seen how there’s a need for what we’ve done,” Mims said. “There’s the big world of commercial art and then there’s a whole other world of people who want a way to express and develop themselves as artists. A good example of that is 10-year-old Gabi Wilson who now has made many national television appearances and actually did her first concert at the café. There are poetry slam champions who started at Listen & Be Heard too.”

With the doors of the poetry café closing, another door is opening for Tony Mims which is close to his heart: mentoring at-risk youths. Utilizing the experience he garnered running four group homes in Vallejo, Mims plans to be a force for positive change in his community.

“I’m opening up New Life Self Discovery Center on Monterey and Tennessee streets and what I teach is self-love and personal responsibility,” Mims said. “There’s such a need to capture kids’ attention before they get into the criminal justice system. Schools are cutting funds for counselors and kids don’t get attention they need. I try to get people in touch with who they are and take responsibility for their lives to reach their full potential.” As Listen & Be Heard transforms itself into a new entity, Martha Mims had a few parting words. “It was fun creating a stepping stone so people could exercise their creative muscles and feel comfortable in their expression,” Mims said. “We’d like to thank all the people who came into our doors and all the loyal customers and the wonderful performing artists who brought this place to life while we were here.”
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By Tony Wade