Black History Month at the University of Nevada, Reno has been jam-packed with honorable events each week, highlighting the black experience through music and history of black activism in the United States. To kick off the third event of the month, The Center: Every Student, Every Story and Wolf Speaks hosted a poetry night titled ‘Say It Loud!’ at the Laughing Planet on Thursday, Feb. 21, to further elevate student voices.
Students gathered around the upper floor of the Laughing Planet, eager to hear what these creatives had to say. People from different walks of life and perspectives walked up to the microphone stand and stated their truths. The performers discussed everything from what it was like growing up black in Reno, to the strength of their own family members despite what they have endured in life. No subject was off limits.
Sylvia Stephens — sophomore and president of Wolf Speaks — was one of the first performers, and read two powerful pieces to the crowd. Her first work, “Nigerian American”, gave the audience a glimpse into her experiences being in between two
different cultures, and the pressure of having to be part of only one instead of both.
“It seems like there’s no intersect, but what you realize is that you live in between that intersect and that gives you power in your own life to be able to recognize that you’re apart of two cultures,” Stephens said. “And that’s good, not bad.”
Chronicling a more specific story to Stephens’ own experiences growing up, “Glass Tongue” discussed her mother, who immigrated to America in the early 2000s. Despite learning English, her mother received a lot of harassment because of her accent.
“That impacted my childhood a lot because I would have to act as a translator. Even though she was speaking English, people still couldn’t understand her,” Stephens said. “It’s really looking back on my own childhood, how I grew up and how I felt. It’s about the way we treat immigrants here who at least try English and how poorly we treat them.”
Snaps and cheers were heard across the room when each performer stated something that either they agreed with or reigned true to their own experiences. Although this was a spoken word poetry event, the hosts encouraged those in the crowd to hop on stage and talk about whatever was on their minds. The open and inviting environment resulted in volunteers continuing the much-needed conversation with topics such as black hair, and the problem with the phrase “I don’t see color.”
Stephens believes events which amplify black stories are crucial to gain more knowledge on certain issues. In addition, conversations regarding these subject matters give an opportunity for unity within the community.
“We’re able to enrich our own selves culturally by being open-minded and seeing what other people have lived through and evaluate what we’ve experienced too,” Stephens said.
Continuing with the success of ‘Say It Loud!’ and other Black History Month events, The Center: Every Student, Every Story will be hosting a canvas painting event on Thursday, Feb. 28, which will focus on the importance of women in Hood Culture. Attendees are welcome to enjoy a night of painting while learning more about this aspect of black history.
For more updates regarding spoken word poetry events on campus, follow @wolfspeaks_unr on Instagram.
Rylee Jackson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @Nevada_Sagebrush.