Poetry Slam infuses words, rhythm into evening of prose


Denis Perez / The Advocate

African- American studies major Destinee Calhoun snaps during the Black Student Union Poetry Slam on Monday in Fireside Hall.

By Xavier Johnson, Web Editor

The Black Student Union’s first event on campus for African-American Heritage Month was an evening of poetry, live music and food in the Fireside Hall on Monday.

Three poets won cash prizes at the Poetry Slam contest for centered on the topic of the black diaspora. Local artist Randy Babb won the first place $100 cash prize, local musician Chazz Conley took home $75 for second place and journalism major Meyli Ortiz earned $50 for third place.

To warm up the crowd before the event got underway, there were two pieces performed by poet Dante Clark and Veteran Services Program Coordinator TeJae Dunnivant. Dunnivant and Clark were also selected to judge the competition.

The competitors performed a diverse array of pieces that touched on topics like mental health, love and growing up.

Babb, who was also there selling some of his prints said poetry was his main source of creativity as a child and when he heard about the event on Facebook, he decided to come and share his poetry without realizing it was even a competition.

“The piece tonight was not only cultural, but personal to where you come from. So, what I performed today was a view of my upbringing, my travels along the road to here,” Babb said.

Conley was contacted by the BSU and decided to perform two poems that may appear in song form on the album he’s working on.  “You’re a Queen” and “Fuck Boy Terms and Conditions” were the two pieces he performed.

Conley said his writing process is free-form and gets inspired by life and writes what he feels.

For Ortiz, poetry isn’t a daily fixture in her life like it is for Babb and Conley.

Ortiz said she writes infrequently when she’s hit with inspiration. The poem she performed for Poetry Slam was about mental health and was written during a show she attended in Oakland.

“One of the poets really inspired me to write and I wrote it that night in the club,” Ortiz said.

Dunnivant approached the Veterans’ Club to see if anyone was interested and Ortiz was intrigued and took the leap to perform.

It was only her second time getting on stage.

Dunnivant said she was happy seeing Ortiz perform a piece that gave the audience insight into what veterans go through.

“The more intersectionality we get on campus, the better it is for everybody. We can all borrow and help each other and share resources,” Dunnivant said, “This event as well as me going up there and being able to let the audience know what veterans go through is really important.”

Only four individuals performed during the Poetry Slam despite 10 people having signed up ahead of time, according to Black Student Union President Armond Lee. He said that people ended up pulling out due to time conflicts and emergencies.

However, Lee said he is just glad the event was able to happen. “African history is spoken word. In the U.S., we tell stories through grandma, auntie or grandpa. We carry our traditions through words and it’s how we communicate. Even going as far back as

Egypt words symbolize thing and that’s important,” Lee said.

Clark was a special guest that performed a series of pieces named “Know Freedom” which was about the Black experience in America.

It also highlighted the pain endured during the ongoing battle for freedom.