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May 10, 2017

Black Student Union hosts Third Annual Poetry Jam

The Black Student Union (BSU) continued to channel poetic verses through the University of Massachusetts as its Third Annual Poetry Jam last Friday, Oct.16.

Attempting to bring artists that are currently circulating in the realm of poetry, BSU invited spoken word artists Alysia Harris and Carvens Lissaint as headliners for the event.

Before the headliner artists were introduced, students and community members had their time to shine during the event.

UMass senior Stephanie Jacobo, who participated twice in this event, performed three original pieces.

Moses Steele Lynn, a U.S. Army National Guard member, expressed how participating in the poetry jam was unique in that the poets and the audience were in tune with each other. “I thought participating in the event was an amazing opportunity for me. It isn’t often that I get to recite my poetry in a place where people actually want to sit and listen,” said Lynn.  

“Make noises UMass like you pay no tuition,” Lissaint said, attempting to raise energy in the crowd of 100 students that attended the event. He explained to the audience that both of the headlining artists are driven by energy, and so if they are touched by the words, they are advised to react any way they choose. Lissaint was the 2007 winner of the New York Knicks Poetry Slam.

Lissaint’s inspiration is characterized by his ability to express and thread what he knows into his creative narrative. “At the end of the day the only thing you have with writing, ‘spiting,’ or even living … is your story. If we have nothing to say, have nothing to feel, there is nothing to write,” Lissaint said.

“Haiti” is Lissaint’s signature poem and the one closest to his heart. He explained that it is an extension of his heritage and experiences in the country. He mentioned how he wrote this poem after as visit in which he witnessed the extremities of beautiful and horrible conditions.

“The ‘Haiti’ poem to my happiness went over really well at the show,” said Lissaint. “Many people were touched by the raw passion and reality of the concept brought forth during the performance. Many came to me after the show in tears, many in joy and many with the overwhelming feeling of respect … It made me happy knowing the work that came from my heart took place in others,” said Lissaint.

Alysia Harris, who is an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania, was a member of the winning 2007 Philadelphia team in the “Brave New Voices” slam poetry competition, which was featured in a HBO documentary. Nostalgia and experiences with her ex-boyfriend are sources of inspiration for Harris.

To recite poems that range from her upbringing in Alabama to reflections about a family member who has post-traumatic stress disorder, Harris follows a simple routine.

“I pray, and I memorize and perform in the mirror. That’s really about it. No voodoo or anything; no conjuring of ancestors. Yes, there is one rule on how one should express themselves in poetry. That rule is honesty,” said Harris.

Gisel Saillant can be reached at

One Response to “Black Student Union hosts Third Annual Poetry Jam”
  1. Dedicatedancer :) says:

    That event was amazing!! && Gisele u did a great job capturing la belleza y mas!

    Love ya,
    Liz **

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