Article written by SCH student Greg Starks '21.
To celebrate Black History Month, SCH’s Black Student Union (BSU) hosted their fourth annual Black History Month Open Mic Night. Due to COVID-19, the event had to be held virtually this year, but even with COVID, the event maintained its energy throughout the evening with 55 participants eagerly showing up for a lively night of poetry.
“I think the energy in the Zoom was super inviting, fun, and familiar,” said BSU President and SCH junior Jaya Merritt. “Once everyone warmed up it felt as though we were all family in the chat, laughing as we played trivia and encouraging the poets who shared. The great energy has inspired us for possible BSU events in the future.”
Featured poets, Lex and Myree, kicked the night off by sharing their poems. Jaya was eager to comment further about how the poems resonated with her so deeply.
“Listening to Myree and Lex’s poems is such a wholesome type of moment because, even if you don’t consider yourself someone who is into poetry or literature, you still end up with this profound appreciation for the piece you just heard,” said Jaya. “It feels good to be understood and that is the feeling that their poetry brings. Their work is so relevant to being an American, a woman, and being Black. It feels so good to be heard by Myree and Lex without even saying a word to them.”
BSU Vice President and SCH senior Brielle Watson-Wood also offered one of her poems to the virtual audience. Brielle has shared her poetry before during past Open Mic Nights, but unlike previous events, she had to forge a connection with the audience through the computer screen, which she says was a different experience.
“Uncomfortable,” said Brielle. “Because poetry is so vulnerable, I enjoy the disconnect of performing in front of strangers and never having to see them again. I wasn’t able to bask in that same anonymity in my house full of family, but I embraced my discomfort and enjoyed the support from my family anyway.”
During the event, a total of eight poets chose to share their poems—some performing more than once as the night went on. Rayna Guy, who teaches English and is the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at SCH, shared a very honest poem that stayed in the hearts of the virtual audience during the evening.
“The Open Mic Night, for me, is always an opportunity to reconnect with one of my greatest passions, which is spoken word,” shared Rayna. “I'm an educator by profession but I’m a writer at heart and I really love getting to sit in that space with our community. I hope we can do it more than once a year.”
Along with poetry, trivia questions and fun facts about Black History were shared throughout the night, keeping the audience engaged in between poet performances.
“I was so surprised and happy to see it work out so well,” said Jaya. “It was never really our focus and it was sort of a last minute thing that worked out so well. Everyone enjoyed it so much which created such a fun space.”
Even though Black History Month is coming to a close, BSU still has some events planned for the future.
“After the Open Mic Night, BSU is definitely looking to put together some type of trivia night or game night for our amazing SCH community,” said Jaya. “We are looking to put together more events where we can discover the talents of our BSU members because we are sure that they have so much more to show us!”
Greg Starks is an SCH senior and member of the BSU. He plans to pursue a career in sports journalism. He will attend Drexel University next fall and plans to double major in communications and sports business.