Poets, performers share experiences at BSA’s open mic

THE BLACK STUDENTS ALLIANCE HOSTED students and professionals in the community as part of Black History Month, featuring motivational speeches, poetry, and music.

Resilience, dignity, and self-worth dominated the Night of Free Expression on Friday. Poets, singers, and dancers of different backgrounds performed in the McNeil Room to a supportive and enthusiastic audience. RPI’s Black Students Alliance hosted the event as part of their continuing celebration of Black History Month and all underrepresented cultures on campus.

Cordell Davis ’20, events coordinator of the BSA and M.C. of the show, started things off. He introduced Lidia Remache ’19, who performed “You Need to Let It Go,” a poem on love and self-respect. After Remache was Eighth Wonder, RPI’s large diverse hip-hop and K-pop dance team. Eighth Wonder’s energy resonated with the audience. People standing around the edge of the room danced along.

Jon Gilroy, a traveling poet and motivational speaker, read original poems about living with cerebral palsy and being gay. RPI’s Chinese American Student Association performed a mesmerizing fan dance. Shannon Alexander, from the University of Albany, sang “Broken-Hearted Girl” by Beyoncé. Navpreet Singh, also known as Nav the Poet, spoke on being Indian American and Sikh. Singh discussed underrepresentation and misrepresentation of Indians in American media. “Going from Apu from the Simpsons to Raj from the Big Bang Theory is not an improvement,” Singh said before reading a funny but poignant poem on the topic.

Albany poet, Poetik, read from her book “Labyrinth of a Melaninated Being: A Collection of Poems.” Charles O’more performed a passionate song of his own composition on Black identity. RPI Bhangra and Bollywood, a North Indian dance team, gave an energetic and well-choreographed routine. Nedyah Alexis, a University of Albany student, read an untitled poem on the intersection of love and faith. Alexis punctuated the sentence “I found God in this black boy” throughout her poem. The scheduled performances ended with author and poet Alysia Harris. Harris read several pieces. The topics covered love, Black identity, pain, sexuality, and religion.

Davis thanked the artists and gave the stage to open mic performers. Ashley Sierra read her original piece, “Poem for my unborn son.” RPI student Seretsi Khabane Lekena ’18 beatboxed. University of Albany student Kyra sang, and the audience waved their cell phone lights. Maya read original poetry on young love and heartbreak. Justina, a new RPI student, talked about discovering a supportive cultural community at RPI and read a poem. The open mic ended with Carlos, who read original poetry on Mexican history and identity. He ended the show with “If” by Rudyard Kipling, a poem, he says, that gives him strength during difficult times.

Davis thanked the open mic performers for their courage and UPAC for managing the lights and sound. President of the BSA Talei Moore ’20, shared some of the goals of the BSA and details on upcoming events. The BSA will be hosting “Hold Your Grit: Step and Stroll Competition” from 7 to 10 pm on Saturday, March 3 at EMPAC. Tickets are still available.

Overall, everyone had a good time. The poetry dealt with painful topics and had a lot of raw emotion. Yet, a sense of optimism, courage, and strength underscored all of it. It was a departure from cliche dark defeatist poetry. The songs and dances dealt with similar themes and conveyed the same sense of hope. Today, it is easy to despair over the stagnation of moral and civil progress. This night was a reminder that the communities pushing for change are not gone but are growing stronger.