Students celebrate Black History Month through poetry

Delmonica Thomas recited two emotional poems. Photo by Allison Franklin.
Delmonica Thomas recited two emotional poems. Photo by Allison Franklin.

On the freezing Wednesday night of Feb. 10, 2016, students from Maryville College as well as other local schools met in the Lambert Recital Hall of MC’s Clayton Center for the Arts to enjoy the Black Student Alliance’s annual poetry night.

BSA’s poetry night was just one of several campus events focusing on the celebration of Black History Month. The lineup for the night included Maryville College students, alumni and professional Jasmine Mans as the guest poet.

The poems, some humorous and some emotional, provided a vehicle for the poets to express their personal feelings. Several even spoke on topics of diversity and oppression.

Sarah Jean-Philippe, a 2013 MC graduate proudly sat in attendance of the event she helped create.

“I come back because they keep it going,” said Jean-Philippe, creator of the poetry night.

As an MC student, Jean-Philippe and her friends spent one evening watching YouTube videos of different poets while dreaming of inviting them to speak at MC.

“I told my friend, ‘I wish we could get [these poets] out here’. She looked at me and asked, ‘Well, why can’t we?’” Jean-Philippe said.

Jean-Philippe and several of her friends spent the next several months working to bring guest poets to the MC campus. Their hard work led to the eventual creation of the annual BSA Poetry Night.

Several MC students took advantage of the opportunity to speak about personal matters. Germani Williams, who just graduated in December of 2015, performed two poems she has written about matters close to her heart.

“I did my Senior Thesis on how spoken word can be a form of activism for the oppressed,” said Williams.

The two poems she performed during Poetry Night, “My Honest Poem” and “#5ever,” closely resembled the themes of her senior thesis. Through her works, Williams expressed her personal feelings towards oppression, race, relationships, love and family.

“I think everybody has the ability to be honest if they choose to be,” said Williams.

Though not originally created as part the celebration of Black History Month, the 2016 poetry night served as a means to celebrate diversity, accomplishment and emotion.

Adelyn Bryson, MC class of ’17 and treasurer of BSA, felt the timing of the Poetry Night would serve as a nice beginning to the celebration of Black History Month.

“We wanted to start off Black History Month by bringing the campus together. Poetry Night lets students express themselves but also brings in a new speaker each year,” said Bryson. “Maryville College was founded on diversity, so it’s important that we celebrate all cultures.”

“[Black history] is such a big part of our country and all it has gone through,” said Liz Menendez, MC class of ’18, in agreement.

Larry Ervin, director of multicultural affairs on MC’s campus floated around the auditorium engaging students in laughter and ensuring that the event ran smoothly.

“Poetry Night has been around for 4 or 5 years now, but we like to add in some new wrinkles each time,” said Ervin.

Ervin also expressed his feelings towards black history’s impact on the nation, MC, and the celebration of Black History Month.

“Though there were certain people they wanted to honor by picking February, black history didn’t all happen in February,” said Ervin.

“If we’d picked the month, it would have been when we could bar-b-que,” Ervin said with a laugh.

Bryson also expressed her passion for understanding the depth of black history.

“Black history can’t be confined to one month,” said Bryson.

Nabil Ahlhauser spoke of love and faith through his poems. Photo by Allison Franklin.
Nabil Ahlhauser spoke of love and faith through his poems. Photo by Allison Franklin.

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