The Black Student Union and members of the Spoken Word poetry team hosted the “Lift Every Voice” open mic night Feb. 3 at Pappas Artisanal in downtown La Verne.
Steven Forns kicked off the open mic night with a poem titled “Macy’s Day Parade,” an ode to anyone who has ever had to deal with not voicing their opposing political beliefs around family members, especially over the holidays.
Forns spoke about the Ferguson protests, and why it is necessary to take a shot every time “your uncle says something that perpetuates racism.”
Forns is the president of Spoken Word and an active member of BSU.
Pappas stayed open after hours to accommodate approximately 20 guests for the event.
Forns, a senior music major, said “Macy’s Day Parade” was a poem that he vented all of his frustrations into and made him feel good.
“I heavily encourage self-expression and finding whatever medium works for you,” Forns said. “This is the medium that works for me and I have seen it work for a lot of other people, and that is why I recommend it.”
The crowd cheered and encouraged each performer, snapping and praising powerful lines, emotional rhythms and thoughtful reflections raised by the poets speaking into the microphone.
Senior speech communications Bradlee Johnson, BSU president, used to work at Pappas Artisanal.
Johnson said Matt Fong and Travis Flood, the owners of Pappas, were helpful and that the atmosphere they created for their restaurant was perfect for the event.
The restaurant was dimly lit with the exception of red tinted light bulbs that both brightened and accentuated the shadows around the performers.
“The goal of open mic night was to start off Black History Month in a good way and give people a platform to express themselves,” Johnson said.
Johnson shared her poem “Fire and Ice.” It was her first time performing one of her own poems in one of the many open mic events she has attended.
“I think that open mic is so universal and that anyone can do this, it doesn’t matter what you look like, where you come from or what your culture is,” Johnson said.
Senior biology major Anais Reveles, a member of Spoken Word, said that when she was a little girl learning English, watching people perform poetry was something that helped her get through that.
“I didn’t really get a good handle on English until third grade, and it seemed like a huge mountain to climb,” Reveles said.
When they discovered the Spoken Word club in 2014, all of the members were preparing to graduate, leaving it up to Reveles and Forns to keep the club going. The club currently has 75 members.
“Stuff like this is cool because I can manipulate who I am for that three minutes I’m on stage speaking my poem, it feels gratifying,” Reveles said.
Reveles, like Forns, uses poetry as a creative outlet, and a safe place for free expression.
“I’m a biology major. I’m surrounded by science so much that I kind of need an outlet like this,” Reveles said. “It’s something that I latched onto as a kid; it’s good for your self-esteem.”
Kendra Craighead can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.