Black History Month Poetry Slam
Above: Cousins Julian Thomas and James Simon performing "Constantly, Conflicting & 7" on Feb. 23. Photo by Christopher Santee
By Jessica Villalvazo
Photos by Christopher Santee
ASCC hosted Poetry Slam in honor of Black History Month last Thursday as an opportunity for students to share stories of their backgrounds and learn from each other through spoken word.
Isabel Sandoval, an ASCC counselor, hosted the event for all students to learn more about poetry, in addition to understanding the struggles of racism and the power of the student's voice. ASCC has the goal of representing the student body by providing opportunities for growth, engagement and overall student success.
Regi Leviandra, 21, who identifies as a rap artist rather than a poet, opened the Poetry Slam with his performance of his piece called “Runaway”. The poem focused on Leviandra’s religious beliefs, being Muslim and his encounters with racism in general. He also talked about last year's issues, such as Black Lives Matter and occurrences stirred up by the last election.
“There’s no race,” Leviandra said. “The only race there is, is the human race.”
Student Alex Prizano performed her poem “Riding the Wave” after Leviandra. Her poem expressed her experiences with being different and how she copes with it.
The cousin duo, Julian Thomas, 19, and James Simon, 20, known by their stage name JT and X, performed their collaboration, “Constantly, Conflict of Interest & 7”.
"We do what we need to get our point across together," said Simon. "We share the same story."
Because they often undergo similar experiences and find each other to be on the same page, the two collaborated on poems about religion, dehumanization of black individuals, politics and seeing their purposes as poets in the world, especially after the election.
“Everyone needs to come together and stop being oblivious to the hidden truths, truth that is being fed,” Thomas said. "Religion is a sensitive topic and the poem I did I just talked about religion."
Thomas and Simon won first place together in the competition.
“Give love and expect nothing,” proposed Glen Stanford, 23, as he opened up his performance.
Stanford, who was voted second place in the competition, performed his piece called “Glass Box Burial”. The poem was inspired by Stanford’s experiences with his faith and his passion to express himself through spoken word.
“I love the freedom to make music without the actual sounds,” Stanford said about performing his poem.
Stanford felt he needed to share his encounter with the hatred he received from others over his religious beliefs, by not continuing the cycle of hate, but rather by doing the opposite.
“The idea was, I’m always put into a box because of my faith and everything I believe in and I never want to fail at just a great gift to do poetry,” Stanford said. “If I can get one person to change, then I did what I had to do.”