Poet. Host. Educator. Actress. Activist. Sports fanatic.
Is there a better word to describe Brittana Tatum than Versatile? She would most certainly say “no,” and here’s why.
In the theater industry, it is common to call people who excel at acting, singing and dancing, “triple threats.” In Tatum’s case, her passions lie within poetry, hosting open mics, and educating. It all started with one fateful open mic at The Russell in downtown Hartford. What started as a Myspace name, “Versatile Poetiq” ended up becoming her stage name and how she’s known in arts scenes around the region. “Poetry has taken me places I never thought it would,” and it all started with spoken word, according to Tatum. “Versatile” doesn’t only describe everything she does; it has a lot to do with her identity as a Queer, Black woman who grew up in the suburbs. After a brief stint a prestigious acting school before she could write complex sentences, she started playing basketball. Tatum eventually got recruited to play basketball at college, but she felt pulled towards her artistic side.
Just two days after her Russell debut, Tatum performed at an open mic hosted at the former Tapas Restaurant in Downtown Hartford. It was there that she met a few other like-minded artists that would soon join her growing circle of influences and inspirations, including TangSauce, Zulynette, and DJ Stealth (aka Assad Jackson). As for hosting, it ended up being something she simply fell into doing, as a result of meeting the right people at the right time.
One of these people is Khaiim Kelly (aka Self-Suffice), who eventually became one of her closest friends and mentors. After subbing for Kelly at an open mic at City Hall, she was asked to host a dance battle at Heaven Skate Park, which quickly became one of her favorite events to host. Stars continued to align for Tatum after Kelly invited her to be a Teaching Assistant for a Civic Engagement class at Charter Oak Cultural Center. For the past decade, she’s been an educator there as well as Arts for Learning CT, a nonprofit organization dedicated to arts integration and engaging kids of all ages and abilities in learning through the arts.
Black Ink walking across the Paper Saluting Success
White out the Black mistakes enslaving his Progress
A Colorless world, a colorless Rainbow, a colorless disaster
So I speak of holding Black White as the Story Happily Ever After
(excerpt from the poem “Black White,” by Versatile Poetiq)
Tatum didn’t just stop at writing and performing, hosting, and educating. This past February, she starred as hustler and gambler Can in “Daisies on Harlem’s Doorstep,” written by Sharece Sellem at the Norwich Arts Center, directed by Rob Esposito and Briana Dawson. More recently, she’s been hosting “The Corner,” a bi-monthly open mic produced with Kamora’s Cultural Corner, Connecticut’s only Black LGBTQI Community Center. Every session includes a community poem, where each participant writes two lines in response to the previous two lines, and that is part of what keeps Tatum excited and inspired about being a community-minded artist.
Yet even artists sometimes have a non-artistic hobby they pursue on the side. For Tatum, that’s sports. “I could probably work at ESPN,” she said. Her love of sports truly runs the gamut – from basketball and football, all the way down to the Little League World Series. Did we mention she’s a foodie as well? There is something truly poetiq about being versatile.