Poets taking on the dream
Students gathered on overstuffed couches and settled at café tables Wednesday night at the Bandersnatch, talking quietly and greeting one another for a time until two students took the stage.
Steve Flores ’11 (Hyde Park, Mass.) and Akeila Benjamin ’13 (Brooklyn, N.Y.), members of the 2011 Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Planning Committee, introduced the evening’s Poetry Slam event by defining “spoken word”—it’s poetry that gives voice an important role in the experience, and it’s often written with the intent of being performed. At that point, they invited members of the crowd to take part with their own performance-based poetry.
Student-poets kept to the theme of this year’s MLK celebration, “Harvesting the Dream: All Hands on the Freedom Plow,” by sharing original works written in classes or over the winter break and also by reading aloud the published works of seminal authors such as Maya Angelou. As they moved toward the stage, one after another, audience members sat back and took in the calm atmosphere and inspired words.
Ruby Montes de Oca ’14 (Chicago) came to watch her friends perform. “I’m excited to see what they bring to the table,” she said. “We’re reading about the civil rights movement now, so it’s the right timing.”
A history and communications major, Montes de Oca came to the slam with fellow first-year student Areli Delgado (Chicago). Both arrived with books in tow. “The poetry is interesting,” Delgado said, “and we can study at the same time.”
Montes de Oca added that there was a bonus to hosting the slam at the Bandersnatch—she and her friends could get their poetry with an Oreo cookie milkshake on the side.
“I’ve been to poetry slams before, and I’m a big reader,” said Khia Johnson (Mercer Island, Wash.), a first-year student. “But I like to hear the words, as well as read them, and see what creative writers at Denison have to say.”
The Poetry Slam, which drew a crowd of nearly 100, was one of several events this week to celebrate the life of Dr. King, including a 48-hour service challenge, a convocation with civil rights activist Diane Nash, a multi-religious service, and a screening of the award-winning documentary New Muslim Cool.
Scenes from MLK Week: