Lights were dimmed in HUB 302 on Thursday, Oct. 25 to create an intimate ambience for ASPB’s 10th annual More Than Spoken Word event. This year’s event featured four spoken word artists for the first time. Round tables, each lit with candles, were set up in front of a stage. Although this year the event was not held at the Barn, the room was filled with over 100 attendees. The event began at 6:30 p.m. with an open mic available for audience members who wanted to perform their own spoken word.
“(More Than Spoken Word) began in 2008 as a creative platform for students who were passionate about spoken word,” explained ASPB Director of Contemporary Culture and second-year sociology and business double major Karlee Labrador. Although this year the event was not held at the Barn due to ongoing renovations, the turnout for the 10th annual More Than Spoken Word showed the event’s positive growth.
Summaya Knugyani, a third-year biology major, was one of the students to sign up for the open mic. Knugyani has previously performed her poetry at events hosted by student performance group Teatro Quinto Sol. For this ASPB open mic, Knugyani felt nervous since she did not practice her poem before the event. Yet this did not stop her from giving a powerful performance.
Another open mic performer was Anissa Lopez, a third-year education major who has been writing poetry since fourth grade. Lopez has looked forward to More Than Spoken Word ever since she read her own work in the open mic portion last year. “It’s one of my favorite events that they have every single year,” Lopez said.
Following the open mic, the first spoken word performer, poet and billboard charting artist Ty Scott King, came on stage. Growing up, King initially aspired to become a singer until she was eight years-old, when her sister was impressed by King’s poems. King’s poems discussed parts of her identity. “Three things were evident on the day that I was born: my nationality, which is Jamaican; my ethnicity, which is African-American; and my gender,” King elaborated. Her performance centered on the immigrant experience and the realities of being a black woman in America.
King was followed by Spoken Literature Art Movement co-founder Alyesha Wise-Hernandez, who is originally from Camden, New Jersey. Wise-Hernandez touched on her heritage and experiences growing up in lower-income neighborhoods. “Camden is dope. Growing up, you weren’t taught that this city is dope. (Camden) is known for all the wrong things, for bad things,” Wise-Hernandez commented. Wise-Hernandez’ poetry included a piece she wrote for Serena Williams that was loosely based on and inspired by Williams’ catsuit ban. “In a lot of the rooms I’m in (on the west coast), there are not a lot of black people or black women,” Wise-Hernandez began. “I got to remember when I’m in a room, I exist. I’m a black woman in the room. I can’t take that completely out of my narrative.”
Michael Nelder, a poet and communications coach, was introduced as the next artist. Growing up, Nelder was teased for his middle name, Nelder. Embracing his identity, Nelder chose to use it as his stage name. “Poetry has been a tool that has allowed me with self-discovery and identity development,” Nelder stated. Nelder’s poems discussed his identity and how his faith informs his worldview. “I think a lot of writing in poetry and life is really about being real with yourself,” Nelder elaborated.
The night ended with poet and activist Yesika Salgado who was a 2018 National Poetry Slam Finalist. Salgado began the night by joking about the “bunch of sad poems” she would be performing that night which were about heartbreak. Salgado also read a couple of poems from her upcoming book, “Tesoro.” In “Tesoro”, Salgado talks about the women in her life and how they survived patriarchal oppression. “My family’s from El Salvador. It’s really important for me to always say that in a room because Central Americans get erased so much,” Salgado stated.
Afterwards, students were able to meet the performers and purchase copies of the artists’ latest works. The event concluded around 9:30 p.m., closing off a night of introspection and artful oral performance.