A slam of culture

By on February 20, 2008
Matt Andrew

Famous performance poet and mulit-instrumentalist Ngoma, started the 5th Annual James Marshall Memorial Poetry Slam with his unique ‘sound libation’ and his didgeridoo, a wind instrument indigenous of Australia.

“It has been said that this sound is what started all life on the planet,” said Ngoma to a crowd of Quinnipiac faculty and students.

On Feb. 16, 10 slam artists from the Detroit to the Boston poetry slam scenes, performed at the QU cafeteria for three intense hours of spoken word to honor Black History Month and address social and political issues as well as the injustices that the oppressed face.

“Our drive for programming during Black History Month is to educate the university and broader community of the richness and diversity of the African American Experience. It is important for people to understand the African American culture as an integral part of American History,” said Gloria Holmes, associate professor of Education and co-chair of the Masters Art of Teaching Program.

“The poetry slam insists that the poets deal with socially relevant content and political and social issues in new and exciting ways,” Holmes said.

Featured poet Jamaal St. James blew the crowd away with his intensity of emotion and skill with words in poems like: “Excuse My French,” which deals with the stereotype of black people not speaking English as well as their white counterparts because their “lips possess a sort of Negro thickness.”

Journeying from slavery to contemporary America, St. James firmly states that black people speaking proper English does not mean they want to be white or anything but black.

“I speak jive and job interview,” expresses the duality that St. James feels he has with his language. “Don’t down me. Crown me.”

In his poem “Nth Degree,” St. James uses his brutally honest language to bring the ugly history of the “N-word” to the attention of black people who use it. He speaks of how the look of the word has changed and made it “more acceptable,” but in reality simply shows “a refusal to evolve.”

Winner of the poetry slam, Kyle Brooks, a graduate from Yale University, battled stereotypes that he and other black people must face, stating a firm grip on one’s own history is key.

He also called for a revolution of social and political standards and values, but claims “Barack Obama is not a black Jesus. It would take a whole village to save us.”

“It is often taken for granted that college exposes people to many things, but I think it is more of a matter of what is being heard. There needs to be more provocative and positive messages,” Brooks said, explaining why events such as poetry slams are important for college life.

Educator and mother Anaiis Azur said, “Black is the essence we will never reach.”

Acknowledging the negative connotation associated with the word “black” throughout history, she explains how black is a goal. It is life, beauty, education, refined and beautiful, and something that not even a black person can achieve.

Soulful Jones delivered a piece about the hardships and impact of a mother raising a family on her own without a husband. He transported the audience to a scene of a child faced with the simple task of spelling “father”-and spelling “mother” instead. The journey of explaining why the mother of a single-parent home in the ghetto, is both mother and father, was gripping and painful.

Positive reaction from the audience was apparent in their energetic applause and eagerness to meet the poets at the end of the night.

“I’m overwhelmed. I just love the fact that people channel such emotion into words this way,” senior English major Brittany Wadbrook said. Wadbrook is a regular attendee to poetry readings on the Quinnipiac campus.

“This is the fifth year doing this, and every time it’s more intense and more passionate, with virtually no students! My heart falls every time I see that,” said Professor of English Timothy Dansdill, an active leader on the forefront of lyrical life on campus and creator of the weekly coffeehouse.

“Art keeps people alive,” Dansdill said.


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