Performers were invited to share their spoken word poetry on other topics as well.
Accompanied by their instructor, Naliyah Kaya, who is also the coordinator for Multiracial and Multicultural Student Involvement and Community Advocacy, students of TOTUS shared their practicums at the event.
“I would say our goal is to get people to think critically about the power of language and to have dialogues about identity and social justice, while building community across difference,” Kaya said.
TerPoets and TOTUS share several similarities.
Like performers of TerPoets, students of TOTUS have different backgrounds and fields of study.
“This is one of the things I love the most about TOTUS. We get students from all different majors and who have a wide array of life experiences, which makes the dialogues in class so rich,” Kaya said.
Another commonality between TerPoets and TOTUS is that prior experience in performing is not required.
One of the TOTUS students at TerPoets was Samariah Cooper, a government and politics major. Cooper was a first time performer at TerPoets; she decided to share a poem on cultural appropriation.
“Took my people away from our country, my heritage away from me, strip me of my civil rights, then borrowed my culture for a fashion show, it’s about time I take that back,” Cooper said, ending her poem.
The audience snapped and clicked their fingers in approval for her strong performance.
“I figured it was a sensitive topic and talking about it in such a large group would force me to step out of my comfort zone, which it did,” Cooper said.
“I wanted to educate people about something that affects minorities all over campus–though I made it specific to the black community, the concept of cultural appropriation is one that victimizes all minorities,” Cooper explained.
After her performance, she received a TOTUS notebook from Mandla “Kosi” Dunn, the host for the event.
Kosi is a film studies major who is also an individual studies program candidate for “transmedia storytelling.”
Organizations like TerPoets and TOTUS inspired Kosi to create “transmedia storytelling,” Kosi said.
Another first time performer at TerPoets was English major Antonio Parker. He shared a poem about rising above the peer pressures of skipping school and indulging in drugs to pursue higher education and creating a better life for himself.
“After getting through the first line, I felt relaxed enough to finish reading the rest of the poem with confidence–of course, having the poem on my phone made things a lot easier too,” Parker said.
Knowing that it was not his last performance at TerPoets, a loud mixture of snaps, claps and cheers came from the audience.
“I shared this poem as a way to get my foot in the door of spoken word poetry and to be a part of the TerPoets open mic session,” said Parker.
The open mic encouraged performers to express spoken word poetry in any form they desired.
Graham Kellner, a psychology student and past performer, decided to freestyle with music.
“I lean back on my heels – I can’t remember how it feels when my breath is stolen,” Kellner said during his freestyle. The audience clapped to the beat of the music.
Kellner finds comfort performing in the open arms environment that is TerPoets.
“I feel almost transcendent, as if I’m channeling my thoughts and feelings in a way I couldn’t in a therapist’s office or to a close friend.”
A crucial commonality shared between TerPoets and TOTUS is the sense of community.
“Something about an audience of strangers gathered together like one community makes the truth come out of me in an almost, oddly mystical way,” Kellner said.
The event came to a close with a final performance from Kellner.
“We seek to highlight community over competition or ego and I believe the core of TOTUS centered on social justice, identity and community is what enables us to do this effectively,” Kellner said.
TerPoets holds open mic events bi-weekly.
Featured Photo Credit: Kosi Dunn, junior film major, warming up the crowd before the Terpoets open mic began. Kosi is the black student involvement intern in the MICA office as well as the president of Terpoets. (Cassie Osvatics/Bloc Reporter)
Jennifer Pham is a junior multiplatform journalism major and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.