On the night of Friday, Feb. 19, Black Student Union hosted its first-ever “Coffee House” in Old Chapel to highlight and showcase black art and poetry.
Kiana Miller ’16 kicked off the event by reading some spoken word from her senior thesis. Her work touched on her thoughts about the beauty of being black and the burden that tends to come with it.
Other student performers included Delano McFarlane ’19, Iseinie Mendez ’17, Anat “Fez” Tewari ’19 and Seraj Sidibe ’19.
For all of them, spoken word is more than just an art — it’s a way to express who they are. They all agreed that poetry and spoken word meant a lot to them.
Mendez said, “I am a story teller and it is my job to get my listeners to understand the message of my story. I love poetry because it makes me feel powerful.”
Sidibe agreed with that sentiment and added, “Being on a stage in front of peers and being allowed to speak freely is truly an amazing experience, but it can also be overwhelming.”
McFarlane added, “You know, I really believe that my poetry is real representation of me as a black man in a society that is still built to degrade us, in a sense.”
That is what much of the theme of their poetry often was: the oppression of the black community and how they combat that oppression. This is why spoken word is so important to all of them. It is, in a sense, their own form of resistance.
“I feel like my spoken word is something that is very sacred to me, because it provides me with an outlet an opportunity to express myself,” McFarlane said.
All of them believed Union has affected the way in which they express themselves.
Sidibe said, “I think my time at Union so far has helped me differentiate myself from the crowd. I’ve learned how to speak up and voice my ideas, and I think that comes to light in my performance.”
Mendez shared a similar belief. “Here at Union, I am exposed to a lot of different subjects, activities and people. I live a neighborhood called Brownsville where many of the inhabitants are impoverished and the only thing on our mind is how to get out of these bad conditions. My old poems were therefore about growing up poor or sadness. Union made my topics shift. My more recent poems are now upbeat and hopeful,” Mendez said.
The event was wrapped up with featured spoken word artist Miles Hodges.
Hodges came all the way from New York City to share his thoughts with students who attended the event. He touched on issues such gender, race and oppression.
The event was attended by more than 30 students, and like many events hosted during Black History Month, the audience contained only a few white students.