Even by Portland’s quirky standards, Cornbred is a unique event, and it’s only fitting that Po’Shines hosts it. Po’ Shines is a nonprofit café that gives most of its revenue to the neighboring Celebration Tabernacle to fund its church and cultural programming. Many of its employees are youth volunteers who are seeking job experience.

The phrase “spoken-word open mic” may conjure up images of bongos, berets and beatniks. In Kenton, only two words come to mind: Po’ Shines.

Every Friday night, Po’ Shines Café De La Soul has been hosting a spoken-word open mic night. The youth-focused event, “Cornbred,” has been gaining momentum.

“I’m a youth advocate,” said Po’ Shines manager and Celebration Tabernacle Youth Minister Antjuan Tolbert.”Cornbred really takes on community youth.”

Cornbred runs from 8-10 p.m. every Friday. The first hour focuses on elementary- and middle-school-aged kids, and the second hour is for teens and older youth. Tolbert said eight to 10 poets perform on an average night.

Cornbred encourages anyone willing to get behind the mic to express themselves. Some participants read work that they have written, some read work of other poets, and others sing songs.

“Kids and parents come together. Parents dig it,” said Tolbert.

For many of the participants, performing at Cornbred is their first time ever speaking in front of a crowd.

“I like it the best when people who haven’t done anything before … get up there,” said regular Cornbred performer Sarah Vandervelde, 21. “It helps kids get out of their shells, and it builds confidence.”

Several of the youth who have performed at Cornbred have gone on to perform at bigger events.

“Two girls read at Vegan Soul Food at Interstate Firehouse Culture Center, and others have read at women’s night at Celebration Tabernacle,” said Tolbert.

Though Cornbread takes place in downtown Kenton, according to promoters the event attracts youth from all over the city, including Southeast Portland and the west side.

Cornbred host Deborah Samson has a background in music and drama and has been involved with Po’ Shines in one way or another for years.

“The freedom of the open mic is like the soul of Po’ Shines,” said Sampson. “It creates community.”