Lots of poems about being a black college student
Harris-Stowe State University is one of the two historically black colleges and universities in Missouri. We definitely wanted to get to this campus because of the high participation of black college students and African American people in general in the spoken word poetry community. (I googled which term to use and Gallup says 61% of people say either term is fine.) Founded in 1857, Harris-Stowe is one of the oldest universities in Missouri and only the 12th teacher’s college to form in the Unites States.
Harris-Stowe State University was our second biggest event, with 82 people in attendance. This was one of the only events that we didn’t do a Facebook event invite for, but our hosts, the Sigma Tau Delta English Honor Society, whose faculty advisor said, “They love when we do poetry night.” Our theme for Poetry for Personal Power is “What helps you get through adversity?” Many of the black college students at this campus had faced a lot of discrimination and prejudice about their racial background, and this was a huge source of adversity in their life experience. This was reflected in many of the poems that night, and the shared experience was truly helpful.
La Tonia Collins Students Working Against Trauma told us, “This event is a real high point for many of our students.” The University Counseling Center was able to use partnership with our program to become eligible for another SAMHSA grant, and they did an event called, “I (heart) Me,” and some of the students sported those T-shirts during our open mic. On the back of the T-shirts they had a list of great things about being a young person, especially a young black college student working to make a huge improvement in a possible future.
Our feature poet for the evening was Yahle’ach, who is also a graduate, cum laude, of a historically black college and university (HCBU), Howard University in Washington, D.C. She was a huge hit on stage by talking about some of her shared experiences being a black college student and working against some of the existing stereotypes. Her finale that got great applause was about her current role being the chief entrepreneur running the business of a household and taking care of three young kids. Her poem showed just how important that role is in our society and even the students who hadn’t started families yet could connect.Her parents even drove all the way out from Kansas City to come watch her perform.
Our sign up sheet kept getting fuller and busiers, and we had stiff competition for our prize winners. Our Sigma Tau Delta English Honor Society has recruited three experienced literary judges and they picked some great poems. The interesting thing is that at open mics, often people say not to sign up first since that might put you at a disadvantage for judging. However, the very first person out of 24 poets got third place, and the second person ended up with first place. In this case, maybe the most confident people signed up first and got the best chances. Or maybe the judges liked what they heard better when they were fresh.
Our event evaluation asked one action students planned to take after their event, and people said:
- Talking to my friends
- Overcoming Struggles
- Let out your feeling through poetry
- Be myself
- Stay in school
- Keep inspiring others to press on and believe that everything will be OK
- Strive for success
- Stop my bad habits
- Speak more about health at conferences
- More help in the community and to encourage children young teenage to stay in school
- Make my self available to my friends that need me
- Stay true to myself
- I will start uplifting myself more for struggles I’ve overcome
- Write my own poems on this topic
- Be even more present for people with struggle
- Start getting right with the Lord
- Self-reflect in own situation
- Listen and help my friends more
Here are the winning poems for the evening:
First place: Gracie Moore “Randomness”
Her poem about being a young black college student but having an important future was incredible!
Unfortunately we had two mic and I didn’t catch that she had switched till just about the end of the poem, so we have good audio but the video is a compilation of the photos from the event that evening.