Social Justice Through Spoken Word
Whether it be the rainy Friday night weather, the candlelit tables and Christmas lights or the rich smell of Starbucks coffee grounds in the air, Union Board’s Social Justice Poetry Slam was a major success.
Students took turns sharing their original poems, other social justice poems from other poets or original poems from friends at home or friends who wanted to be heard but just needed a helping hand to do so.
Topics ranged from feminism, LGBTQ+ rights, the black community and police brutality. For example, one student wrote a poem from the perspective of a black woman if she were to be shot by a police officer today and the officer were to look through her phone and see the poem.
One performer, Meagan Tanner, ‘19, recited an original memorized poem about feminism entitled, “Conversation with a Meninist.”
“I am done being silenced,” Tanner read. “I am so tired of feeling bad in my own skin.”
Other poets recited their poems in a sort of rap style. The crowd roared with cheers after one entitled, “Melanin Man,” a poem about the black community needing a hero.
Some Union Board members decided to read poetry of their own as well. Maggie Keverline, ‘20, for example, read a poem about love and relationships in the LGBTQ+ community.
“I’ve never done this before, so I’m a little nervous,” said Keverline. To which co-president Annie Carroll, ‘19, said “You got this we love you!”
The host of the event, Ben Strommen, ‘20, was excited about the turn out of the event. With over 15 poets presenting, the event exceeded its original estimated capacity and number of performers.
“I think doing any event that relies on student participation involves some risk,” Strommen said. “Initially I was expecting around 11 poets, but as the event went on more and more came forward to perform which was so exciting!”
Strommen even found the courage himself to perform a poem he had written about coming out to his dad. The poem was from his dad’s point of view and touched on the struggles Strommen faced growing up, including being a pastor’s son while also being bullied for being gay. Strommen sat anxiously at his table in Post, expecting that he would have to perform first to get the event started on the right foot.
“Being vulnerable is always a hard thing to do,” said Strommen. “I wanted to show other poets that the space was somewhere that welcomed vulnerability and that they could feel comfortable and safe performing their own personal pieces.”
Strommen’s performance encouraged others to be more open about themselves and several other poets came forward following his performance with similar poems about struggling through life being gay. One student even got on stage and started with, “I’m here because I’m gay” and proceeded to recite a poem from another author about all the beautiful girls she has kissed in spite of her mother’s disapproval.
After the successful event, Union Board encourages students to give them feedback as to which events they liked and didn’t, as well as why.
“If this is an event the [student body] wants to have again then we can certainly make it happen,” said Strommen.