As the month of February came to a close, California Baptist University honored Black History Month with a night of poetry and spoken word in the Stamps Courtyard on Feb. 26. Uprising, a group promoting diversity on campus, hosted their first Poetry Slam for Black History Month with the help of the Associated Students of California Baptist University.
Students read original poems dealing with topics of struggle and preconceived notions of humanity. The speakers also proclaimed God’s perfect and unfailing love in every situation.
Nkese Etokudo, senior nursing major, read an original poem while incorporating a song by Tasha Cobbs called “God’s Grace.” She said she was excited to be a part of the event and proud to honor those who fought for equal human rights.
“Despite societal limitations, (African-Americans) still rose above, even with people getting in their way and doubting them,” Etokudo said.
Though the event focused on a hostile and vulgar part of American history, when human beings were disregarded and segregated because of the color of their skin, the hosts still managed to incorporate comic relief between acts.
Blade Wright, senior psychology major and one of the leaders of Uprising, instructed the audience to snap their appreciation at the end of the poems instead of clap. Wright’s role was not only as a host, but one as one of the performing artists, as well.
“If I could have people remember anything from tonight it would be: Release your consciousness from the perimeters set by preconceived insinuations and acknowledge the aptitude inhibited by deformation,” Wright said, quoting a line from “Deformation,” the poem he wrote specifically for the event.
After the student artists finished, guest speaker Pastor Lester Barrie, senior pastor of Bible Believer Missionary Baptist Church in Lakewood, California, recited three unaltered literary pieces. One of them was Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech, “Drum Major Instinct.”
Imitating King’s voice, Barrie spoke with pride and conviction into the silent evening, transporting the audience back to 1968, when equality still was just a lonely, lovely dream.
Barrie also included “Jonestown” by John Butler, speaking of 440 years of people not caring what happened to African-Americans, and “Freedom’s Plow” by the late African-American poet, Langston Hughes.
These poems spoke directly to the hearts of the listeners and provoked strong emotions.
“(These pieces) have been in my life for about 20 years. I’ve known them forever and they paint a certain kind of picture,” Barrie said.
“It’s going to take all of us to push this nation in the right direction,” Barrie added. “We have some history that is not so pleasant. It’s been worse for some more than others. I think, in general, the direction the nation is headed in is God-in-spired, but it’s going to take all of us to get there.”
The evening allowed for listeners to reflect on and remember the beauty of diversity. Though the world has a long way to go in fully accepting diversity, African-Americans everywhere celebrate the greatness of men and women who came before them.
After the event people were encouraged to mingle with each other with a goal of bringing students together despite their differences. Enjoying each other’s company, students reflected on the message of the evening.