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A Poet Named Superman Builds a Charlotte Legacy at Red@28th

Greg Murray's Release Therapy cultivates the spoken-word community

a portrait of Greg Murray at an open mic in Charlotte called Release Therapy
A poet named superman performs at Release Therapy. (Photo by Malcolm Beamon)

A spoken-word artist who never anticipated being an artist, Greg Murray, also known as A Poet Named Superman, did not have a typical introduction to poetry. 

A native of Neptune, New Jersey, Murray began to dabble in the medium while spending time with his college friends in 2006. A combination of the “diverse crew” and “friends to lovers” tropes, as he described them, the group’s mix of eclectic personalities was a catalyst for fueling artistic endeavors. 

At some point, the girls started writing poems about the guys, prompting the guys to reciprocate. It went on for about a month or so, but Murray wasn’t participating yet. 

“I’m just sitting here like Michael Jackson in Thriller eating my popcorn,” Murray said. 

It soon became clear that he was more than a passive observer, however. During one sharing session, both sides realized Murray was playing the role of double agent. He had been editing for both sides, leading to both poems incorporating phrasing that originated from him. 

“And they were just like, well now you’ve got to write a poem,” Murray said. 

Despite initial hesitation, Murray penned his inaugural poem, “First Is the Worst.” He views it as a triple entendre, symbolizing the reluctance to start, the burdens of leadership and the childhood taunts directed at those who lead. 

Something connected for Murray, who continued to compose poetry for five years before stepping into the realm of spoken word. From childhood tales of soaring across the living room to playful teasing of his “superhero complex,” his chosen alias reflected his admiration of his favorite superhero. As his poetry evolved from hobby to passion, allowing him to distinguish between his craft and personal identity, he eventually became A Poet Named Superman.  

“A friend came up to me and told me ‘You’ve got to have a stage name,’” Murray said, “‘What you’re speaking about, people are going to think they know Greg.’” 

Defining a poet

A poet is described by Merriam-Webster as “one who writes poems : a maker of verses.” For Murray, however, the title goes deeper and should only be used to describe those who take the craft seriously.

“You are a person being bold enough to express your feelings, thoughts and experiences with other people. There is a responsibility that comes with that,” Murray said, “People trust you enough to be inspired by what you’re saying.” 

…Yes, with great power comes great responsibility, but with great responsibility comes great worry — worry of your impact, worry of your strength, worry of opinions, worry of your own ability…” – from “Hakuna Matata,” by A Poet Named Superman 

Murray deeply values the craft, and credits it with saving his life, giving him purpose and allowing him to travel, meet and build relationships. 

Neptune is a small city near the Jersey Shore, an hour south of staple destination cities like New York City, Philadelphia and Atlantic City. As of 2022, the population was less than 5,000. 

a black and white portrait of Greg Murray performing spoken word
A poet named superman performs at Release Therapy. (Photo by Malcolm Beamon)

“There are people who have never been outside of this small town because it’s comfortable for them,” Murray explained of his hometown. “Their idea of making it is becoming Homecoming King — very small-minded.”  

Small-minded was never a term that could be used to describe Murray, however. His mom knew as much, and when she saw him begin to act and think in a small-minded way, she did what she could to push him out of the nest called Neptune. 

“She handed me a pamphlet and told me to apply for the Disney College Program,” Murray said. “She definitely wasn’t asking, she was telling.” 

He was accepted into the program and moved to Orlando, Florida, where he frequented a local cafe’s open mic night. 

“I only had two poems, but they were hitting,” Murray said. 

After a car accident in 2010, Murray moved home. What was intended to be a two-month stay unexpectedly stretched into two years. While reflecting on his situation, he spoke to his cousin Sharon, who at the time resided in the Charlotte suburb of Davidson. 

“She told me, ‘Come to Charlotte. The cost of living is cheaper, it’s a growing city and they have a poetry scene. I think you’ll really thrive here,’” Murray recalled. 

In 2016, not even five years after he finally made the move to Charlotte, his sister passed away. Around the time of her passing, he created a poetry mixtape called The SuperTape, which featured artists he’d met and collaborated with while in Charlotte. 

He dedicated The SuperTape to Sharon.

“She built her life up in order to help people,” Murray said. “She was the sweetest woman in the world. If it wasn’t for her and what she did with her life, I wouldn’t be living the life that I am now.” 

Release Therapy’s home

At that time, the multicultural literary lounge was located at the corner of North Davidson Street and East 28th streets, hence the name. Now located on East Boulevard in the former People’s Market space in Dilworth, Red@28th remains a one-of-a-kind establishment for the Queen City. 

Owner Darren “Jaz” Vincent has consistently engaged Charlotte’s creative community even before opening his venue. He launched the Charlotte Literary Festival in hopes of attracting non-readers and converting them. 

a portrait of Darren 'Jaz' Vincent, owner of Red@28th
Darren ‘Jaz’ Vincent, owner of Red@28th. (Courtesy of Darren vincent)

After a conversation with his son, he decided to create an appealing space for people who don’t typically read. Thus, Red@28th was born. 

“It’s an alternative to the club or the bar, a place where you can socialize,” Vincent said. “Your home away from home.” 

Meanwhile, as Murray settled into Charlotte, he recalls not being received well. 

“I built a name for myself in Jersey so much that I came here and I was a little over confident,” Murray said. 

He wanted to establish a welcoming environment for aspiring or newly arrived poets in the city after observing how existing venues demanded a certain level of skill before being noticed. 

“I felt like there had to be a space where it didn’t matter what your skill set was,” Murray said, “You just needed a place to get something off of your chest,” Murray said. 

Read More: NC Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green Teaches Curating Your Own Past

He shopped the idea around in 2015, including Red@28th, where some friends had taken him the very night he moved to Charlotte in 2012. As with the other owners Murray spoke with, Vincent wasn’t interested.  

“I’d tried something similar years before, but it didn’t work,” Vincent said. “I didn’t feel like Red@28th was ready.” 

Murray was not deterred. He already had a presence at Red@28th alongside his friend DJ Bezzie Beatz. As Murray stood behind the booth with him, he witnessed the DJ fully immersed in his craft, deeply connected with the music. 

“I was the type of person that never liked to talk on the mic,” Beatz said.

Eventually, Murray began to do the speaking for him, and Bezzie Beatz and A Poet Named Superman became an emcee/DJ duo that naturally fused together.  

a photo of Murray's friend, DJ Bezzie Beats helping with sound and performance at Release Therapy
DJ Bezzie Beats at Release Therapy (Photo by Malcolm Beamon)

“He would know what to say before I dropped a song,” Beatz said. 

They worked together for about three years before Murray presented the idea of Release Therapy to Vincent once again, a weekly open mic event for spoken word poets in Charlotte.

Vincent recalls looking into Murray’s eyes and knowing he was ready. 

“I needed someone who was creative and willing to get dirty to make this thing work,” Vincent said. “He came around at the right time.” 

Cultivating a safe space

After celebrating Release Therapy’s eight-year anniversary in February 2024, Murray reflected on its unexpected longevity. He recalled how he had initially envisioned that it would eventually be taken over or personalized.

“I didn’t realize it was a part of the purpose of me being here,” Murray says. “The idea was to create a safe space for adults to be able to express themselves and not be judged.” 

Jalisa Gomez, known by her stage name Rapunzel, discovered Release Therapy after relocating to Charlotte in November 2023. She expressed an immediate connection thanks to the palpable positive energy in the room. 

“There were no judgemental people, there was no animosity,” Gomez said. “It was a mutual space and it’s been a long time since I felt that type of way.” 

The next time she attended, she performed a poem about a very sensitive topic. She asked that no one in the crowd record the performance, as it was a personal story that she hadn’t shared publicly. 

Everyone respected her request, which only cemented her feeling of security in a space that cultivates an atmosphere for community — sometimes even feeling like family in a room full of strangers. 

Release Therapy remains a sanctuary for all, a status it has upheld for nearly a decade, though it has encountered unexpected challenges along the way. 

After the celebration of the fourth anniversary in 2020, the world shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Murray lost both of his jobs and went back home to New Jersey. He recalls thinking Release Therapy was over, but he very quickly realized people still needed a space.

a photo of a group of people sitting in the lounge area of Red@28th in Charlotte, NC
Attendees at a recent Release Therapy show. (Photo by Malcom Beamon)

“People I met in Charlotte were texting me like ‘Yo, what are we doing with Release Therapy? I need it,’” Murray said. 

Using Instagram Live as a platform, Murray brough Release Therapy back virtually, expanding the open mic to include participants from across the nation. 

During one session, Brandon Leake, the first spoken-word artist to win America’s Got Talent, joined and over time developed a friendship with Murray. Later, in February 2023, Leake made a surprise appearance at Release Therapy, just before the seventh anniversary, after it had returned to in-person. 

While it was still virtual in 2020, Murray and fellow artists used Release Therapy as an outlet to express and examine their feelings about the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis and the response from the community around the country, including Charlotte. 

Poets engaged in virtual battles, rallying support through audience donations to contribute to a GoFundMe for Floyd’s family. 

The virtual events sometimes got disrupted by trolls who had no intention of performing, but once again, Murray was not deterred. After all, he had built Release Therapy from the ground up, and only he could tear it down from there. 

“What people choose to do with it is not on me, I know what it’s here for,” Murray said. 

Let it remind you, that you should celebrate your victories, however grand or minuscule … Let it remind you that building a legacy don’t mean you get to choose how people remember you … and all of this is okay.” –  from “Death of A Poet Named Superman,” by A Poet Named Superman

A Poet Named Superman can be found every Wednesday at Red@28th for the SuperFriends Writer’s Workshop at 7 p.m. and the Release Therapy Open Mic at 8:30 p.m. ($5 cover) and select Sundays at Dandelion Market for The Garden Party ($10 cover). A Poet Named Superman will also headline The Rooftop at Royal Tot event on June 4 at 6 p.m.

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