“An all black organization? Isn’t that racist?”
Senior theatre major Sisi Reid laughed and smiled as she spoke these words to a crowd of about 40 students and adults. While she spoke the verses with a grin, the phrases of this monologue were taken from real-life experiences.
Ten individuals, including Reid, took to the stage for an evening of spoken word in Hoff Theater Wednesday night for the Black Monologues, one of the last events to be held at the university for Black History Month.
The annual Black Monologues is a two-hour slam poetry session designed to give students and staff the opportunity to share their stories through the presentation of original address.
The monologues, hosted by sophomore Mandla “Kosi” Dunn, offered an opportunity for the nine students and one faculty member to share their experiences of being black – in America, in school, as women, as men.
It also allowed audience members to reflect upon the words of the speakers and attempt to empathize with their experiences.
“I’m attending this event because I personally identify as black, and although I’m a junior here, I’ve never been to a black monologue,” said theatre major Gabby Davis. “So hopefully by the end of this, I’m crying and feeling good about my life.”
Dr. Kumea Shorter-Gooden, chief diversity officer and associate vice president of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, recounted her experience entering a “white elite” world when she integrated into an all-girl’s school during her childhood, and then as a college student during the Civil Rights Movement.
“Today reminds me of yesterday,” Shorter-Gooden said. Although she is grateful for the victories in the black community, she is frustrated that there is still much that needs to be changed.
Nora Tarabishi, a senior journalism major, said the event engaged in an imperative dialogue on race.
“I loved that the performers used pop culture and music references so the audience members could relate to what they were talking about,” Tarabishi said. “It was informative, emotional and funny all at the same time.”
Jason Nkwain, a senior and member of this university’s slam poetry team, performed a piece that begged the question, “Have you seen an African dance?”
“Land of the free, home of the brave,” Opeyemi “O-Slice” Owoeye, a junior government and politics major, rapped to the audience. “Stolen from the Navajos, built by the slaves.”
Owoeye’s performance had the audience yelling, “Preach,” while senior Abisola Kusimo’s performance about black womanhood held the audience captive.
At the event’s conclusion, the audience was encouraged to ask the performers questions about their performances, writing and experiences.
“I think [the monologues] hopefully gave the audience the urge to write,” Dunn said. “I hope it inspired someone who is more anxious to write to know that they can and that they have a space to facilitate that desire.”
With her own feelings and fears spoken, Owoeye reminded the audience that it is up to everyone, regardless of race, to participate in this sort of dialogue everyday. While these stories may be less difficult to express in a space as safe as the monologues, they are also the ones that must be heard in the classroom, the workplace and beyond.
“It is up to us to speak to people who may not want to hear it,” she said.
*Senior reporter and co-managing editor Savannah Tanbusch contributed to this article.
Daphne Pellegrino is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.