Jun 13, 2019 12:07PM
By Kate Smith
Using her signature from past love letters as her artistic name, Withlove, Felicia’s smooth voice is peaceful and powerful. As it fills the space, the audience is left hanging on every word.
No two performances are exactly the same. Walking onstage she has a framework in mind, but at the microphone, the words she strings together to share her message are unique to that moment.
“We call it ad-libbing, but I think it’s a little deeper than that,” says spoken word poet and artist Felicia Webster, aka Withlove, Felicia. “Sometimes I feel like it’s whatever energy needed to move through me—whether it’s an angel or an ancestor—and what they needed to say in the moment.”
Webster was first exposed to the art of spoken word while in Philadelphia for college. Moved by the love and passion that was shared in that space, she brought the tradition back to Omaha in 1998, creating some of the first spoken word open mic events in the metro: InFoRhyThMz, Poetic Fusion, and Verbal Gumbo.
For Webster, poetry means taking her own experience and sharing it in a way that others can relate to.
“I am really clear about inspiring, empowering, healing, and offering people a light through the word,” Webster says. “Maybe there is a glimpse of hope in something I’ve written or shared that touches someone else.”
Webster’s open mics foster safe spaces for artists to share their work. She says that the vulnerability, transparency, and sometimes nervous energy the artist shares with the audience should be met with love and gratitude.
“Poets, we see the world in figurative language and colors—alliterations and similes and metaphors. Everyone doesn’t see the world like that. But if you can come to a space and you know that there are other people that feel the same way, you feel like you have a family.”
Webster has since moved to a supporting role for open mics, no longer speaking every weekend. Instead, she hosts events, runs workshops, performs with her band—Withlove, Felicia and the Light—and works on projects with the Nebraska Arts Council, WhyArts, Collective for Youth, and Omaha Community Playhouse. All this while also being a long-term substitute teacher at King Science and Technology Magnet Center and a mother to her 16-year-old son.
There are currently two topics that bring spirit to Webster’s art.
“The first one is love. Love is such a powerful verb that all of us need to execute more often. The other one is healing, encouraging, inspiring, and empowering the divine feminine.”
Though much of her art is spoken, Webster understands the importance of leaving a written legacy.
“The manifestation of a spoken word artist is that you write the words and then you breathe life into those words,” Webster says. “But there are pieces that sometimes need to be read.”
She is currently working on a project in honor of her mother, Lilian Webster, who died in March. She credits her mother with introducing her to language, stories, and music at a young age and wants to pay tribute to her with a line of greeting cards—something her mother loved.
Webster says the support she received from her parents, teachers, church members, counselors, and librarians helped her find her divine purpose in poetry. She passes this love, passion, and sometimes pain on through the microphone.
Visit withlovefelicia.weebly.com for more information.