Black Student Union hosts poetry jam

By Mitchell Scuzzarella

Under dimmed lights, and with light jazz in the background, students came together Friday night in the Campus Center Auditorium for a Black Student Union sponsored evening of poetry.

Featuring professional poet Kai Davis and student poets, issues of love, race, gender, and death were explored.

The night began at 8 p.m. with student poets from UMass, other members of the Five Colleges and guests from colleges as far as Bridgewater State University.

Light music was provided by band “Chocolate Milk,” whose sets ran underneath and between poetry performances. Later, the band was provided with some of its own time to perform, and gave the audience a display of jazz and hip-hop with wordplay and music melding into one.

UMass junior David Ke recited poetry on social issues, including race, gender, and domestic violence. Ke said that he fell in love with poetry through introduction by a friend, and appreciated the fact that poets can “freely express their perspective in their own unique way.”

In pieces such as “Culture” Ke explored the issue of identity, raising the question “who am I as an individual?”

In his poem “Culture,” Ke denounces the stereotyping of the American Media. “On stage is a foreign person, from a foreign nation, whose life is set out by all of the stereotypes I the media have placed on him powered through individual, cultural, and institutional forces.”

Maggie Tobin, a sophomore at Bridgewater State University and a leader in her own school’s poetry group, arrived with startup clothing company Lime Apparel, selling the group’s wares at the back of the auditorium throughout the poetry jam.

The clothing line bills itself, according to its website thelimeapparel.com, as a “design collective created to inspire a movement that challenges the status-quo, promotes positive lifestyles, and empowers its wearers.”

Despite working with the clothing line for most of the night, Tobin still found time to deliver a performance of her poem “5480” to the delight of the crowd. Tobin’s poem focused on the loss of a friend to gun violence, and is based, Maggie said, on the recent loss of a coworker from her hometown.

The jam culminated with a performance by special guest Kai Davis, whose poetry prowess boomed across the auditorium. Davis, 17, is a youth poet from Philadelphia whose public recognition in the poetry community is on the rise.

Her performance of “Homicidal Rainbow” brought LGBT bullying issues into the poetry picture as Kai narrates, “I never wanted to be a rainbow, to bend at the whim of a thunderstorm.”

Senior nursing student and attendee Sean Kielar best summarized Kai’s performance describing the budding poet’s work as “intellectual, she was someone who made me look at things so differently.”

Mitchell Scuzzarella can be reached at [email protected]