December 3, 2023

Lauren Shelburne | Staff Photographer

PODCASTED BY: Christina Gibbs

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and to celebrate the beginning of February, which is Black History Month, California Baptist University’s Community Life in partnership with the United Club hosted Cap Chat Poetry Slam, featuring spoken word artists Jackie Hill Perry and her husband Preston.

The evening was dedicated to raising awareness of the issues that face not only African-Americans, but all cultures, and to encourage students to begin to dialogue with one another about these issues. Jackie opened the night with the performance of her poem, “American Persecution,” followed by Preston’s performance of “Dear Mike Brown.” Later, “Seven Things I Want to Tell America” and “Jesus is God” were performed.

To cap off the night, a panel discussion featuring the artists, along with the university’s own Chris Bates, strength and conditioning coach, Dr. Kenya Davis-Hayes, associate professor of history, and Brian Zunigha, director of discipleship ministries, was held to discuss in further detail relevant topics such as the Black Lives Matter movement and how to generate positive conversations about race.

The discussion was facilitated by Jay Stovall, the director of cultural and commuter programs in Community Life, who worked directly with United Club to put together the event. “Our hope is that we can dialogue and try to look at (race) through a Biblical lens and how God wants us to engage our world when it comes to celebrating and including the black community,” Stovall said. “I think it’s going to be an awesome opportunity for everyone to be reminded of the gospel through art and his heart for all people at this event.”

He later explained why he believes art is such a valuable medium when it comes to these conversations. “I love art. I think we as people can relate to art,” Stovall said. “We relate to music, which helps us to connect and it helps us put into words how we feel. I want to create other opportunities to have students engaged in culture and engaged into art, and I think this event does that.”

Grayson Bell, senior public relations major, and Raygena Smith, senior political science major, and president and vice president of United Club, said the inspiration behind the poetry slam was to have an event that could help jump start a conversation between students that would ultimately help bring them together.

“(We) want to answer questions people may have about those particular topics, who may not have anyone who they can talk to,” Smith said. “This is a perfect opportunity for them to voice their opinion on those topics at the event.”  To further the conversation, Bell said the club is planning another event called “Dream” Feb. 18 at 7 p.m. at the CBU Recreation Center.

“‘Dream’ is dedicated to Martin Luther King,” Bell said.  “His dream was for everybody to come together and recognize our differences, but to embrace those differences.”

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