Civil Rights and Peace: BSU hosts moving poetry reading

Though we often associate February with candy hearts, cold weather and influenza, some may forget that it is also Black History Month. The University of Puget Sound’s Black Student Union (BSU) has assuredly not forgotten.
The club held a poetry reading entitled “Civil Rights and Peace” on Feb. 24, in Commencement Hall’s Tahoma Room. The event was sponsored by the BSU, the University’s African American Studies department, the Resident Student Association and the Spoken Word and Poetry Club.

At around 5:30 p.m., the students began to climb out of their seats and approach the front of the room, clutching poems in their hands. They read off paper and off smartphones. They read personal poems, as well as poems by Maya Angelou and Ishmael Reed.

The most popular poets seemed to be Nikki Giovanni and Langston Hughes. Most of the poems were written by black authors, in honor of Black History Month. One student performed a poem by Nikki Giovanni entitled “Nikki Rosa,” reading off a printed-out page.

“I really hope no white person ever has a cause to write about me, because they never understand,” she said.
Following “Nikki Rosa” was an original poem that traced the chain of emotions one student feels while listening to a track from Tupac Shakur. Another student read an original poem about interracial love and relationships. When he finished reading, he kissed a girl who was sitting in the second row.

Halfway through the event, the stream of poets was interrupted by a man named Brian Minalga. He was not a poet, but a Peace Corps volunteer. He gave a Powerpoint presentation about his experience in the Peace Corps and his time in Africa, where he worked in youth development as a schoolteacher and community worker, first in Niger, West Africa and later in Namibia, South Africa. He spoke about how he celebrated Black History Month with his own students in Africa and how he helped empower the young women there through poetry.

Minalga compared the mission of the Peace Corps to that of Puget Sound’s own Black Student Union. As shown by the Powerpoint slide “Our Mission” and reiterated by Minalga, the Peace Corps seeks to promote cultural exchange, friendship and peace.

Minalga reiterated that the BSU is important for this very reason. He read a poem in the West African language Zarma (one of four languages that he speaks) and translated it into English, as his own contribution to the poetry slam.
While there are currently no upcoming events for BSU, the club is excited to present a new scholarship opportunity this spring. The BSU scholarship, entitled “One More,” hopes to add more minority representation to the University of Puget Sound’s campus.

“One More” is the first scholarship of its kind to be offered through Puget Sound. BSU leadership hopes to officially announce the scholarship this spring.
Also premiering this spring is the club’s literary magazine Black Ice. The BSU-run magazine will celebrate the work of students, faculty and community members, with a collection of narratives pertaining to race relations.
Send artwork, prose, essays, short stories and poetry (anything in print form) to zine.bsu.ups@gmail.com by March 8 if you are interested in contributing.