EDEN -- On Thursday, this idyllic mountainside community will play host to the master of a new art form that mixes motivational speaking with performance poetry. Sekou Andrews aims to inspire people with their stories, not his own.
Following an Italian-style buffet at Harley & Buck's, an upscale Eden eatery at 3900 N. Wolf Creek Drive, Andrews will dish up a taste of "Poetic Voice."
"I'm creating it as I go, out of thin air," Andrews said of his innovative work during a recent phone interview from his home near Los Angeles.
A decade ago, Andrews delivered poems at business conferences to break up the otherwise "cerebral, brain-numbing content."
"I was asking why art is the break from the content, and not the vehicle to deliver the content," Andrews said. "That was my aha moment."
Since then, Andrews's energy and talent have brought him before President Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Hillary Clinton, Maya Angelou, Larry King, Norman Lear, Sean "P-Diddy" Combs, and Coretta Scott King and family.
Many high-profile companies have tried to saddle "The Sekou Effect," including Banana Republic, eBay, Global Green, Google, Kraft, Microsoft, Nike, Time Warner, and more.
But his abilities to connect and inspire audiences reach beyond the corporate world. Andrews teamed with Steve Connell to produce a two-man spoken word play titled "The Word Begins" which received three Helen Hayes award nominations during its premiere Washington run. He also produced and recorded an album called "Poetic License."
As a youth, Andrews moved from California's Bay Area to Washington. He fell in love with acting and hip-hop, two passions Andrews pursued as a teen at Duke Ellington School of the Arts and Georgetown Day School.
He then went on to earn a bachelor's degree in sociology from Pitzer College in Southern California. As he worked toward a career in entertainment law, Andrews realized "his heart was in his art," and dove into substitute teaching to subsidize his dream of being a full-time poet.
Four years later -- after touching the lives of fifth-graders as a full-time teacher in south-central Los Angeles -- Andrews set aside that all-consuming occupation to again pursue poetry full-time.
"I wanted to be Jay-Z and Denzel, a rapper and an actor. That led me to venues based on my music pursuits," Andrews said. "And somewhere along the way I fell in love with poetry."
Two experiences helped prepared Andrews for his current niche.
One was slam poetry competitions that took root in Chicago and then ignited globally because "it turned poetry into sport."
"And as Americans and a culture, we love sport," Andrews said. "There's a lot of strategy to reach an audience that is jaded and not on your side."
The second involved Andrews's participation in TV and film celebrity Norman Lear's national tour called "Declare Yourself." That nonpartisan, nonprofit campaign aimed to empower and encourage 18- to 20-somethings to register and vote.
"Those were really the training ground to go into audiences and have that muscle trained enough that it didn't matter who I was talking to," Andrews said.
"At the end of the day, I know I'm going to tap into the truth of their humanity, aspirations, challenges and story. Those are far more common among all of us than we think."
Andrews debuted his talents in Utah earlier this summer, first in July at the Summit Outside event held by Powder Mountain's new owners, and the other as a convocation speaker for Salt Lake Community College in August.
Joy Tlou, SLCC's public relations director, described Andrews's keynote as "overwhelmingly positive."
"He spent a considerable amount of time speaking with us about the institution, and somehow managed to incorporate all those ideas into a poem that he performed slam-style," Tlou said. "It's a real experience for the people who are there."
Summit asked Andrews to perform at this month's community dinner held at Harley and Buck's.
"We're really excited to share his talent with the Ogden Valley," said Megan Boswell, who handles community relations for Summit.
Thayer Walker, Summit's chief reconnaissance officer, praised Andrews for his "uncanny knack to take the human condition and present it in ways that are really poignant and really unique."
According to Craig Bonham, Harley & Buck's owner and chef, dinner reservations are required because of the venue's limited space. The buffet serves from 5 to 8 p.m. and adults eat for $15, children for $9. Sekou Andrews is expected to take the stage at 7:30 p.m. For more information or to make a reservation, call 801-745-2060.
Contact reporter Cathy McKitrick at 801-625-4214 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @catmck.