As a part of an FDU tradition to celebrate African-American influence in poetry, music and literature, students gathered in Twombly Lounge on Feb. 16 for the annual Black History Month Open Mic event, put together by the Black History Month Committee, and principally, by Professor Katie Singer, chair of the committee.
The event has been a staple of the Black History Month line-up of events for the past four years, inviting students of any race to share either pieces of poems, books or songs by African-American icons, or original work.
This year’s event provided a change of pace, the setting being changed from the Bottle Hill Room, home of the event for the past three years, to the cozier venue of Twombly Lounge, which invited many a passerby.
Singer had a huge role in organizing the event, for the fourth consecutive year. The idea and inspiration for the event, intended to foster artistic expression, began with Singer’s African-American Literature class, which sponsored the first annual Black History Open Mic, back in the spring of 2008.
Singer believed that this event could bring diverse students, for the same goal of celebrating black history and artistic expression.
“The goal of this event is to hear the unheard voices, the unknown voices…to empower the students,” said Singer.
“It’s structured like a reading…I try to keep it as relaxed as possible, so it doesn’t feel like a lecture. I want to be an anti-lecture environment, if anything,” she said.
“I’m not concerned about how many people come out and read, as long as the students walk away feeling good about their culture. Everything we do is for the students,” she said.
At the event, students alternately read poetry, listened to music, enjoyed refreshments and food, and encouraged each other to get up and read.
Freshman Ciney Rodriguez, a first-time attendee, was moved enough to recite one of her original poems.
“This was my first time really reciting one of my poems at FDU,” she said. Rodriguez, who writes mainly about God and her own thoughts and feelings, felt positive about her experience.
“There were a lot of really amazing African-American poets…Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes. It’s nice for us to come together regardless of race to just recite our poems in honor of them.”
For another freshman, Jahyda Cortes, the event was a positive experience as well. Cortes did not come to the event intending to read anything, but was inspired when she saw similar thoughts being shared through the microphone.
“A lot of people [at this event] were speaking about God, and a lot of what I write is about God, my own battle, my testimony,” said Cortes.
Cortes, who has been writing and performing spoken word poetry since 2008 thought the event succeeded in giving students a voice. “They use spoken word to express their feelings, to talk about their emotions freely,” she said.
Senior Antoinette Miles, a member of the Black History Month Committee, read a spoken word poem about her hair, calling the black woman’s hair both “A Gift and A Curse,” the title of her original work.
“I chose it because the struggles I have with my hair, growing up and even today is very real to me…it’s real to a lot of young women,” she said.
“Black History Month means celebrating the African-American and their place in American history,” said Miles. “For me, it’s about empowerment and pride in my roots and people.”