One of the greatest joys of poetry is that it helps us understand one another on a deeper level and communicate messages that can be hard to convey otherwise. Maryville College’s Black Student Alliance (BSA) kicked off Black History Month with a tribute to one of the MC community’s own black poets. “X” Night was a poetry slam event held in the Center for Campus Ministry (CCM) on Wednesday, February 1 that gave students and other members of the community an opportunity to share meaningful poetry or prose and amplify black voices.
Warren Xavier “X” Sales was a senior at MC when he tragically passed away from a heart attack in 2017. His passions for poetry and activism inspired many people who met him. This event, held in his honor, sought to provide a space for communication and connection, which he was so passionate about.
BSA hosts poetry nights annually, but this event carried extra meaning with its dedication to Xavier and because it served to kick off Black History Month. “Xavier was an advocate for voices of all volumes, timbers, tones and temperaments, so I know he is smiling brightly…” Aja Rodriguez, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, said about the event.
The night included poetry readings, singing, recitations, performances and heartfelt discussion. As the attendees listened to written works discussing the experiences of people of color in America, recent instances of police brutality and discrimination were brought to mind for many. Rodriguez encouraged the group to use the space as an outlet for emotion and reminded students that she is always willing to be a listening ear when the injustices of this country feel like too much to bear.
“People sharing their own or other’s words last night is exactly the kind of thing X would have loved, and having his Mother, Terry, there was the icing on the cake. I love her and have grieved with and for her throughout the years,” said Rodriguez.
Students and faculty had the opportunity to speak, sing, recite or reflect as they felt inclined, as the group gathered in the CCM listened and encouraged each participant. Many emotions were induced by the performances, from joy, to sadness, to hope, to frustration, to optimism, to sympathy, and each response was welcomed. BSA created a space in which everyone felt at home, just as Xavier would have wanted.
MC’s Black Student Alliance is currently co-run by Jean Miracle Raymond and Lavarius Thenthirath, sophomores, and Alexis Brown, senior. According to the Maryville College website, they “strive to celebrate Black culture and share the variety of the Black experience with the MC community.” They have multiple events in the works for the remainder of Black History Month, including a talent show on Feb. 24.
It can be easy to let this month be overshadowed by Valentine’s Day, the stress of upcoming midterms, and the pressure that tends to set in at this point in the semester, but it’s important to remember and honor the history of people of color in America and look forward to the future with zeal for action and initiative. If you are interested in getting involved, join BSA for their weekly discussions on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. in Bartlett 101.