Poetry slam and jam

Brandi Howliet | Staff Writer

Dr. Daryl Lynn Dance on April 8 opened an open mic event for the students of Hampton University. The event was in the Student Center Theater and organized in anticipation of the campus visit of this year’s Read-In author, Tim Seibles. Throughout this event, English and Foreign Languages (EFL) faculty encouraged students to express themselves through poetry.

As Dance noted in her opening comments, “Nommo” is an important concept for people of African descent. The crux of their existence has always been linked with the word–oral traditions–and the ways in which future generations signify on words or sounds that were spoken by earlier generations. Such an appreciation of the power of language was cherished in the spirit and roles of griots throughout African societies.

Despite what has been lost to people of African descent due to slavery, they held on to orality, especially the rhythmic ways in which they have wielded the word. To find examples, one need only to look at the lyricism of rap/hip-hop, spoken word performance, or the sermonic traditions of the Black American church.

“I think Dr. Dance, Chair of the Read-In Committee; Dr. Laurie Cannady, Chair of the Department of English and Foreign Languages; and the other faculty associated with the event wanted our students to be exposed to this living, breathing, vibrant tradition–the legacy of Nommo in America” said Dr. Karima Jeffrey, a member of the EFL department.

The performances featured poems and spoken word from Hampton professors and students. The topics discussed, throughout the poems, included depression, anxiety, alcohol abuse and acceptance. Most poems were short and only took about a minute to read, but all of the poets were very effective in conveying their message.

Not only were students encouraged to speak freely and express themselves, they were also encouraged to understand the impact poetry has on alleviating these issues.

These topics are relevant issues that college students deal with on a regular basis, especially at Hampton. Not only were students encouraged to speak freely and express themselves, they were also encouraged to understand the impact poetry has on alleviating these issues.

“I hope students gained a greater appreciation of the depth of our African-American oral tradition,” Jeffrey said. “In particular, I hope we demonstrated how distinct genres can work together and/or are speaking to each other: example, religious imagery in some of the stories, the cadence of hip-hop/MC/spoken word can have with black preaching traditions, etc.”

Events such as spoken word and poetry are one step closer toward allowing students to have more creative outlets on campus.

“Students absolutely need a creative outlet,” Jeffrey said. “We have always encouraged such expression in EFL–via our various writing courses, especially, but also in some of our literature and language courses as well. I think it is also important to note the emphasis on oral presentations in many EFL courses–literature, writing, and languages.  All are intended to offer students an outlet for expressing themselves.”

HU students are encouraged to be on the lookout for the next poetry jam to come in the near future.


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