Featured photo: Jahmed Williams and his mother, Bridgette, started Demhaj Poetry Lounge last year. (courtesy photo)


Bridgette Williams greets each customer as they walk into her shop. Her giant smile and warm personality liven up the already cozy space inside Demhaj Poetry Lounge, which is kicking off their first Triad Poetry Slam. 

Twinkling string lights and coffee-themed art pieces decorate the interior as visitors walk into the space. The lounge is named after Williams’ son, Jahmed, which spelled backwards is Demhaj. 

“The lounge has always been a dream of my mother’s,” Jahmed explains.

Though he’s originally from Charlotte, it was his mother’s native roots in High Point that brought her back to open up Demhaj Poetry Lounge in June of last year. Acknowledging how the city was growing and the Williams’ family history with High Point, it was “a strong bond” to the area that made the dream a reality.

As a rising senior at Georgia State University in Atlanta majoring in entrepreneurship, Jahmed started going to poetry lounges in Atlanta and began thinking about what he could bring back to High Point.

At a spoken word and poetry event in Atlanta called “Poetry on Peter,” Jahmed learned from observing curator Miyana Sarver.

“She taught me a lot just by watching her,” he says. “I aim to take a lot of her qualities while running [Demhaj]. She runs her business like a family. She treats everyone with the same kind of respect, love and encouragement.

“Every time I would go out I would think, Wow, I wish I could have this in North Carolina,” Jahmed continues. “I’m going to transfer this there and have a similar vibe.” 

Located off of North Main Street, the Poetry Lounge sits one block south of the High Point Public Library and less than a five-minute drive from High Point University. Nestled within a blue-colored outdoor strip mall, Demhaj exists between a Mediterranean restaurant and a staffing office.

“The objective of Demhaj really is starting a place where we can really have basically a solid [foundation] for creatives,” explains Jahmed, who is 21-years-old and a co-owner of the shop. 

In addition to nurturing a creative space in the city, being a Black-owned coffee shop in High Point is a point of pride for the young man.

“It means something for our young kids,” he says. “It also shows other people in the city they can chase their own dreams.” 

Williams hopes Demhaj Poetry Lounge can be a “beacon to the Black community.”

“Just The Two Of Us” by Grover Washington, Jr. plays through the speakers as patrons walk in and make their way to the counter to order drinks. Others look for a table to settle into. The window blinds at the entrance have been pulled down and the lounge’s coffee-colored walls transform the daytime coffee shop into a lounge — the mood has been set. 

A performer recites poetry at Demhaj Poetry Lounge (photo by Luis H. Garay)

Williams steps out from behind the bar as she welcomes the audience to the event. She plays the role of super host, barista, emcee, performer and facilitator for the night.

“I wanted the community to come in tonight and express themselves,” she says as she passes around a sign-up sheet.

“Snap or clap?” she asks. 

Each performer gets to decide how they want to receive their praise.

As the event gets going, the vibes of the poems recited range from hopeful to those that touch on grief and loss.

Aniya Blackwood, 18, is one of about a dozen performers. From a high seat in front of the corner stage, she takes a breath before beginning her piece.

“I know growth comes from discomfort,” she recites.

A performer recites poetry at Demhaj Poetry Lounge (photo by Luis H. Garay)

The lines express her process of growth and putting herself out there. It’s a large part of why she attended the event in the first place, she says.

“I want us to be able to utilize outlets where we can get our feelings out on the table and touch beyond the surface,” she says

As co-emcee, Williams asks the performers about their pieces, inviting them to share more about their creative process. 

“How long have you been writing for?” she asks.

Some, like Blackwood, have been writing since they were young, others since they were teenagers. One performer shares how poetry helped them better understand their learning disability.

After the last performance, Jahmed takes the high-top seat in front of the stage and asks if anyone else wants to perform. Members of the audience respond and some begin to share why they came tonight. The space transforms from a poetry lounge to community processing space. Where before the audience turned to look at the stage, now they turned to look at each other. 

“What is it that blocks us from expressing ourselves?” Blackwood asks. 

At Demhaj, the exploration of that very question is the whole point.

Visit Demhaj Poetry Lounge at 805 N Main St. in High Point. Follow them on social media at @demhajcoffee.

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