grow

\ grō\ verb

1. Cultivating self through natural progression in order to blossom in size and substance.

2. To rise up or evolve to maturity: as to raise a people from fear and ignorance by promoting spiritual, economic, and cultural development.

 

Martin Grow, the spoken word performer and author, was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois.  He spent his early years with his mother, a Chicago Public School teacher.   They lived with his grandparents, who were from the rural south, which provided a strong sense of family, culture, and community. In the early 1980’s, the Englewood area of Chicago where they lived, had become a place where gang violence and drugs were changing Chicago’s African-American neighborhoods.  At that time, as a grade school student, Martin was an above average student and in love with basketball. On the basketball court is where Martin claims to have learned some of his greatest life lessons.       

Martin Grow attended St. Sabina Elementary School. At St. Sabina, a catholic school, ironically, he was introduced to a strong sense of African American pride. The schools staff consisted of very dynamic African American women and men, including Father Michael Pfleger.  Though his skin was white, Fr. Michael was a strong-willed activist for the black community, and as a result, Black history and culture were a big part of the schools educational model.  Grade school is where Martin began writing poetry.  He vividly remembers the Beta Club school trip to Atlanta, Georgia in seventh grade where he visited the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Center where the Eternal flame rests and also a walk through the house where Dr. King grew up.  This experience marked the beginning of the journey that Martin Grow endeavored to find his place in America.  

As a youngster Martin was a deep thinker although often he found himself caught up in the mischief of being a teenager.  Basketball was mostly his focus throughout junior high and high school.  Martin attended Kenwood Academy in the Hyde Park area of Chicago.   Hyde Park was a melting pot of culture and allowed Martin to become more socially conscious. Throughout his high school years, House music was a big part of Chicago’s young urban culture, yet it was the mid to late 1980’s that introduced Martin Grow to Hip Hop. He was fascinated by words being articulated over music and the power those words commanded.  He began to write rhymes during his senior year in high school. Rap became a passion as intense as the one he held for basketball.      

Martin went on to attend college.  His hoop dreams soon fizzled.  In the place of basketball, he became very entrenched in Hip-Hop culture and decided he wanted to become a recording artist.  Inspired by many different rappers of that time like KRS ONE, Big Daddy Kane, De La Soul, Public Enemy, NWA, and EPMD, he spent many hours writing rhymes. His first exposure to a stage came at Illinois State University, the school he attended. There he performed at several Fraternity and Sorority talent shows and local events.  

Although Hip Hop provided a platform for Martin Grow to express himself, breaking into the music industry would be a daunting task.  He wanted to express love, peace, and unity in a rap culture that had changed so drastically from late 1980s to the early 1990s. He recorded several songs that were never publicly released. Martin often says that he never found his voice in Hip Hop.  Interestingly, while recording one of his last songs in 1996, a friend suggested that Martin add an excerpt from the spoken word legend Gil Scott Heron to complete the tune.  That moment sparked his interest in learning more about Gil Scott Heron and spoken word.  Soon after those last recordings, Martin stopped pursuing his dream of being a recording artist and went on to work in corporate America.

Corporate America provided Martin Grow with a hard core look at the face of the country. Going to a virtual reality world of capitalism for eight hours a day and driving home through the impoverished and dismal streets of Chicago, affirmed for Martin Grow that there were definitely two very different Americas.  In corporate America is where he learned that racial injustice was still very alive.  By day, he wore a corporate face yet he wrote poems about the injustices that kept him up at night.  Out of those dark moments a Spoken word poet was born.  Martin Grow has since left corporate America.  Many of his poems describe the economic, emotional, and spiritual condition of African Americans.  Brother Martin Grow has a strong voice and is very sincere in his writings. His first book “The Propaganda of Fear” gives the reader some insight about this man and his desire for positive change in the world for all people.