“Find your voice and perform it in your own way,” urged Rhys Hall, senior sociology major and co-host of Friday evening’s Take Back the Mic Against Hatred and Bigotry event.
The open mic, organized by United Muslim Advocated for Humanity, provided a safe space in Stamp’s Benjamin Banneker room for students to voice their concerns against hatred and bigotry, covering topics of race, ethnicity and gender often in the context of the upcoming election.
The evening opened up with Hall and co-host Sadiyah Bashir, a business student at Prince George’s Community College and six-year performing poet, taking the floor to ease the tension in the air, spitting bars and sharing pieces of original poetry.
To Bashir, the content of this art form directly reflects the mindsets of the youth who deliver them. When taking this election into account, this would translate to mean that the concerns and fears of America’s youth are revealed in their self expression.
“To find out the mindset of the youth, look at the art. That’s what youth go[es] to as a way of freeing themselves about what’s going on around them,” said Bashir, whose own poetry reflects her emotional growth, in addition to topics of gender and race. “If you realize that your art is being more socially conscience, and its topics are going into Donald Trump and this election and stuff like that, that’s how your youth are feeling.”
Attendees were then encouraged to stand in front of the intimate audience to share their voices, the first being senior behavioral and community health major Katie Landry who shared a personal poem about the struggles of femininity in her Korean culture.
Landry explained that the inspiration for her poem was rooted in her observations of societal roles from her mother and grandmother’s interactions with men.
“In Korean culture, we have a different set of rules—this is much more old school than modern day. There are different words we have to use when talking to men. There are different ways that they come first, and very much so in society. They [men] are supposed to be the forerunners,” Landry said. “I really wanted to combat that, to go against cultural norms.”
Some performers chose to present another author’s work, such as Maya Angelou’s “Do I Rise,” as opposed to original content. For some, this was their hundredth time being in front of an audience, whereas for others, this was their first.
Nonetheless, each performance was received with applause, the snapping of fingers or a resonating verbal appreciation.
In context of the numerous derogatory comments that have taken center stage to many candidates’ campaigns, many students feel that open mic opportunities such as Take Back the Mic are one of the best ways for those who feel oppressed to get their voices heard.
Sophomore computer science major and member of United Muslim Advocates for Humanity Semiat Aina said she feels that events like these bring awareness to the “people out there who care that they are being victimized” and who want to actively do something about it.
“They don’t have to combat these types of things on their own. Rather, they have a group of people supporting them and reassuring them that they do matter and that their voices are heard,” Aina said.
“I think it [Take Back the Mic] went well. It allowed people to voice their opinions given all the hatred and bigotry we see on social media, television networks, and things like that,” Aina continued. “I think it’s very important to have a space where people can express their opinions from time to time.”
Featured Photo Credit: Prince George’s Community College business student Sadiyah Bashir shares one of her poems. (Sammi Silber/For The Bloc)
Jordan Stovka is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.