With the move to remote learning this fall because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Campus Activities Board was determined to make virtual welcome week as exciting and engaging as possible with the theme “Movin’ Through the Decades.”
The remote CAB activities allowed students to interact with one another during welcome week, with events such as virtual bingo, a Netflix party, a virtual painting session and a Black Lives Matter movement speaker.
Ryan Jones, a spoken word artist and writer dedicated to youth and community outreach, spoke to the issues of the day.
His poems were open and honest about the racial issues he has faced.
“Maybe we should dedicate (Stone Mountain) to someone else, when they finally replace the dead white man on the side of Stone Mountain with the statue of our lords Big Boi and Andre 3000,” Jones said in one of his poems. “They will have to replace all cop cars with Cadillacs with 34-inch rims.”
Stone Mountain is a Confederate monument near Atlanta which includes images Civil War generals Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee carved into the side of a mountain.
Jones added a sense of pop culture to the topic of Stone Mountain in effort to help those listening understand the issues.
“I was speaking to Eve Ewing, the writer of Ironheart for Marvel Comics in 2016, and she told me that we could write literally anything in poetry,” Jones added.
“It was just such a liberating thing to hear, maybe because it came from someone I adored so much. I realized I could write about everything I felt, whether it be on my favorite video game, being a Georgia Black man (or) mental health,” he said.
Jones also talked about how he felt being a Black man at this moment when Americans are taking a closer look at police brutality and mental health.
“Ryan had a very upbeat and enjoyable personality,” said Jacob Gonzalez, sophomore business major. “His way with words and how he expresses them in his poems are very powerful. He wants people to get an insight about who he is and what he can do for his community.”
Throughout the Zoom talk, students were engaged with one another, typing in the chat box and discussing how they felt while listening to the poems.
Jones created a humorous mood with interesting questions like whether someone would want a human face on a cat body, or a dog with human hands.
Jones made listeners feel as though there was a sense of friendship between them, as they considered their thoughts and feelings about the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I felt that having someone speak on the BLM movement in a different way was even more educational,” Taylor Vasquez, junior educational study major, said. “Hearing stories told in spoken word allowed for more emotions to be heard, and I felt more connected to his stories as a non-Black person.
“I will never fully understand the pain and suffering they face but it made me angry for them and made me want to advocate even more for the BLM movement,” Vasquez said.
“The main goal for CAB this semester is to still represent a source of community and belonging and making friends,” said CAB co-chair Serena Martinez, a senior kinesiology major.
“For incoming freshmen and other students, we understand that this must be a difficult time with everything being virtual, but we want to make sure there’s a sense of community and home,” Martinez said.
“We recognize these issues to fight for equality and commemorate them with a Welcome Week theme based on the past historical events that are repeating in the present day,” Danyelle Jacob, CAB co-chair and senior communications major, said.
Destinee Mondragon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.