Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Black Student Union hosts its 10th annual Poetry Jam virtually

The event featured musician Carvena Jones as their guest performer
Courtesy of @UMassbsu Instagram

The Black Student Union at the University of Massachusetts held its 10th annual Poetry Jam virtually at 7 p.m on Friday. The entire event was pre-recorded and then streamed through an Instagram live from the organization’s official page. The pre-recorded event is available on their page as well for anyone to view.

The event went on for about an hour and featured artists presenting their work through multiple mediums. Although poetry was the main objective of the night, the show featured musicians and dancers as well. In total, there were 10 performances.

Carvena Jones, a contestant on season 2 of the show “The Four: Battle for Stardom,” was the guest performer and final act of the show. Jones performed a medley of love songs and said, “We should know the importance of Black art, and how much we as a people contribute to the culture and the sound of music.”

Jones also interacted frequently with the audience. During one of her songs, she said, “I usually do this with an audience so try to follow along.” She then proceeded to ask the left, the right and the middle part of the crowd to repeat after her as she sang the song, even though no crowd was physically present.

However, the program’s viewers enthusiastically responded to this by typing out the words Jones was singing through the chat box, mimicking how they actually would’ve done if this was in a physical space. One of the viewers said, “gotta switch my wigs for the different sides,” and another said, “I’m on  the left and right tonight idc [I don’t care].”

Freshman education major Faith Alina Nicole Richardson performed the first spoken-word piece of the evening, and it was about how the situation she’s in right now, socially and environmentally, has affected her well-being, as she explained in a Zoom interview. In order to give the spoken-word feel, Richardson also set up a flashlight to give a spotlight on her wall, similar to the lighting of poetry jams in real life

“Witnessing Black lives dying and then also just like the workload of school online and being a student-athlete that’s not on campus and trying to balance all that on my own, I wanted to talk about how that took a toll on me mentally,” Richardson said.

“Toward the end, I try to make a comparison to how Black bodies are being killed violently, and maliciously, but they also are deteriorating mentally,” Richardson added. “Being in this atmosphere and witnessing these events occur, it’s hard on the mind and [it’s so] traumatic so just like showing that I feel it, and I also know that other people are going through it mentally — it’s almost like being a dead body walking.”

Marcus Campbell, a trombonist, covered the song, “Lemonade” by Internet Money, which garnered a positive response from the viewers. The entire cover was done only with trombones and the viewers appreciated Campbell’s efforts, with one of them saying they are “boutta [about to] make this their [phone] ringtone.” The viewers were even impressed with Campbell’s yellow-colored trombone, explicitly mentioning it in their comments as well.

Gracia Bareti, from Smith College, and Christina, from Southern Maine College, performed a spoken word piece titled “Disappointed Black Women”. “I was picked for this challenge of being placed in a world that wasn’t designed to love me, but taught me that nobody could love me better than myself,” said the two students. They ended their piece with, “Your ideal woman is a Black woman until we are unable to give you the strength you desire — Sincerely, Black Women.”

Similar to real-life poetry jams, the viewers used the chat box and typed “*snap snap snap*” to show their appreciation for the students’ performance.

In an attempt to recreate the show in a physical setting, BSU President Rebecca Louisthelmy and Vice President Jasmine Yvonne Bogle also included clips of them introducing each performer and expressing their feelings about each performance, like how they would’ve if this was done physically. They also provided the contact information of each artist after the performance.

Bogle said, “One of the advantages we had going virtual is that we were able to get talent from places and people who are not as close.” She explained, “Normally, it’s an in-person event and if you’re in Boston, per se, and you can’t make it for the night, we are missing out on being able to see you in person.”

She then added, “But now that we’re virtual, even if you lived all the way in California and wanted to send in a submission, you would be able to do that, so that was a pro going for us this year.”

When talking about the purpose of the Jam, Bogle explained, “As a small group on a predominantly white campus, it’s really important for us to have a safe space to showcase our art and our talent.”

Mahidhar Sai Lakkavaram can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @Mahidhar_sl.

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