The smell of mini Dunkin’ Donuts and mini chicken-and-waffles mingled with the skittering electronic beats of music in the Luchsinger Lounge on Wednesday evening, where the CWS was hosting an event called "Do It for the Culture: A Coffeehouse Experience." This event was a celebration of Black art and culture.
The first poet, Faiza Haji ‘22, read off of her phone, a common sight at college students’ poetry readings. The audience responded to Haji’s poetry with snaps and “wow”s.
Students were encouraged to read their own poetry, even if they hadn’t formally signed up, and were invited to read any of the poems that had been printed out and laid on tables, which included poetry from influential Black poets such as Langston Hughes, Terrance Hayes, Claudia Rankine, and our own current poetry professor at Agnes, Kamilah Aisha Moon.
Lyrik Courtney ‘20 read their amazing poem “Breanna,” which begins “On the dance floor, she throws ass / like a circle of golden light."
The idea for this coffeehouse poetry event was originally posed by CWS tutor Imra, who hosted a similar event in high school. She said she wanted to create a space for people to be able to express themselves.
Lydia Mathis ‘19 reads a poem from her phone. Photo credit: Sierra Adams
Imani Young-Bey, the Program Coordinator at the Center for Writing and Speaking, helped to transform Imra’s idea into a “constructive, reflective space.” Surprisingly, the CWS received only two formal submissions from students seeking to read their work at this event -- most of those who performed on Wednesday did so spontaneously. Despite the small amount of initial submissions, the event had a good turnout and a great overall energy.
The remaining poems of the night played on themes from a spectrum of Black perspectives -- hair, melanin, identity, Afrolatina culture, police brutality, lipstick, poverty, queerness, and crushes. “By the time we are born, Kylie Jenner / will have invented the cornrow,” reads one cheeky line from a poem by Lila Todman ‘20 entitled “Hair.”
Lila Todman ‘20 reads her poem. Photo credit: Sierra Adams
Our own HerCampus photographer, Sierra Adams, stepped out of her comfort zone and read the classic (but powerful!) poem, “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou -- and she killed it. Candace “Cinnamon” Spates ‘19 recited her own poem, “Disney Princess,” which criticizes the Disney movie The Princess and the Frog for introducing Disney’s only Black princess, Tiana -- and then transforming her into a frog for the majority of the film. Cinnamon’s lively recitations always elicit a positive response from the audience.
Cinnamon connects with the audience. Photo credit: Sierra Adams
As poets took their time to decide what to read, there were often breaks for people to mingle, eat mini donuts and drink coffee, and listen to Future. “I literally googled ‘black lesbian poetry,’ one performer said before reciting a poem that was credited to @coconutsandhoney on Instagram.
Lydia Mathis recited “Suicide’s Note” by Langston Hughes. “The calm, / cool face of the river / asked me for a kiss.” Everyone was amused by the brevity.