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Virtual slam poetry event is a sanctuary for artists of color

The Pit Spit in 2018, where EROT introduces the year’s newest members in a group piece. Photo courtesy of Jazmine Bunch.

Slam poetry can be a way for artists to release — whether it be through a rap, song or even journal entry. And the hosts of “Life like it’s Golden, Golden," a virtual open mic night, hope to create a space where this release is possible.

In collaboration with the Collegiate Association for Artists of Color (CAAC), UNC’s Ebony Readers/Onyx Theatre (EROT) will host a virtual slam poetry open mic night that follows the theme, “Life like it’s Golden, Golden.” 

The event will take place Thursday, March 18 from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Anyone is free to join the celebration, and all students of color are welcome to share at the event.

EROT president and broadcast journalism student Jazmine Bunch was contacted by Emily Goes, a recent New York University graduate and one of the programming directors at CAAC, to organize a performance opportunity for their groups. Together, they decided that a joint event was best to broadcast their respective messages.

“CAAC doesn’t have a spoken word collective like we have, so we decided to have an open mic,” Bunch said. “Most of our open mics just reach the campus community, whereas this one is virtual so anybody could come in at any time, whether they're on the East coast or the West coast, whether they're in school or they're in their adult years, there’s space for that.”

Goes said the goal for the event is to create a space for students of color to have a platform to write, perform and commune to share their writing.

“Slam poetry is often a weapon of liberation,” Goes said. “I wanted to harness the power of the words at the intersection of poetry and performance, but rooted in the spirit of thriving, so we can say that we've claimed our liberation.”

The purpose of CAAC is to provide creative support, a unified community and equal opportunity platforms for students of color to pursue their craft. Goes referred to it as a sanctuary for people of color to advocate for themselves and help create a world where art belongs to everyone.

Cassi Quayson, a sophomore at NYU focusing on language and liberation, is the editorial director for CAAC. She works with most of the written work for the group and will perform at the event. Quayson said she is most looking forward to sharing with a community of like-minded people.

“I will be reading a new poem called ‘What’s Ours,’” Quayson said. “It's about womanism and Blackness, and violence to Black women, and just the experience of being in a Black body. The best of poetry is spoken word, when everyone's there to celebrate each other and to present their art, so I'm excited to have that atmosphere of support and love and just celebrating words.”

Though the virtual set-up is different in terms of performance, Bunch said she is excited to feel a sense of community again through the pieces that will be shared.

“Open mics are always just spaces for people to release,” Bunch said. “Being that we've been in a pandemic for a little over a year, it's really important to have this sense of community where you can share a little bit of everything that you've been feeling. It’s still very important to have that space where you can be around other creatives and just have a space where you can vent in whatever way you feel is best for you.”

Having the space to share is important to the organizers of the event, and they hope visitors can find hope and inspiration with the words — even after the event is over.

“I hope people leave this event with a renewed sense of hope in young poets, because I think there could never be enough of that,” Quayson said. “Obviously a big part of CAAC is that we're giving support to young artists of color specifically, and I hope when people leave this event, they're realizing that artists are important.”

Like Quayson, Goes is excited to give people the opportunity to express themselves and claim their space through the collaborative spoken word event. 

“Oftentimes we dilute our message for the sake of like white palatability, but I want the opposite to happen,” Goes said. “I want people to harness the power of the word and to know that their words can move mountains, or they can just be shared. I want folks to know they can have this power to choose whether or not they want to use their words.”


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