Performers at Wednesday night’s poetry slam used the medium as an opportunity to teach listeners about racial issues and civic awareness.
The event at 7th Street Underground featured five performers in all, reading either original poetry or works written by a favorite poet.
Shamerea Richards, a corporate communications major, used her poem “Chi-raq” to discuss issues surrounding her hometown of Chicago.
“Youth under 10 can’t enjoy the sounds [of] ice cream trucks, due to the young man hanging out of the sun,” Richards recited. “Crime was never the issue until the issue became crime.”
She said the “Anti Chi-raq” movement in Chicago, a protest against the “Chi-raq” term given to the city based on its alleged violent nature, gave Richards the motivation to write the poem.
“(The media) generalizes Chicago as a bad place,” Richards said. “Some parts are bad, but the city as a whole is great.”
She said the reason for heavy crime in some parts of the city is not because of race or age, but rather a cycle.
“(People involved with crime) never leave Chicago, leaving them stuck in the same cycle and doing whatever they can to make a living,” Richards said. “We need to teach our youth that history does not repeat itself … and get them to leave the city and see the outside world.”
Richards is also the president of Performing Arts for Effective Civic Education, which uses these poems, plays and other forms of art to better portray civic issues.
“When you perform the issues, you feel it,” Richards said. “Just watching it on the news does not have the same effect.”
Other performers at the event used the poetry slam to talk about personal issues, something that Zayne McCorkle, a junior English education major, said is common.
“The best poets are introverts,” McCorkle said. “Poetry allows you to express yourself with words you may not normally have.”
Nick Ruffolo can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]