Sunday, April 2, 2023

Poetry slam focuses on identity

Christyn Pettway

SUNY Plattsburgh Student Support Services held its annual Poetry Slam Tuesday. TRIO SSS is an academic support program on campus that provides access, opportunities and support to eligible students for free. SSS helps students graduate on time by offering academic advising, peer mentoring and tutoring for math and writing. The program also holds events such as poetry slams, financial literacy events and workshops that tackle topics such as stress management and graduate school applications to increase academic success for students.

The virtual poetry slam event was held on Zoom from 11 to 2 p.m. SSS has been hosting this annual event since 2017, after slam poet and activist Amanda Alcantara was invited to perform on campus. The huge turnout in attendees for the Dominican American performer made SSS realize there needed to be more events such as that one.

“It was clear that our students needed more events that celebrated the cultural contributions of latinas and other people of color. SSS has been hosting poetry events each year since,” TRIO SSS and Writing Skills Specialist Athena Castro-Lewandowski said.

Attendees have the option to not only be a part of the event, but contribute to it as well by submitting poetry of their own or any poetry they enjoy reading and want to share. With the topic of identity for this year’s event, students shared poems like, “What Kind of Asian Are You?” by Alex Dang, “Vote,” by Nikki Giovanni, “Being Independent,” by Rupi Kaur and other poems that related to one’s identity. Some students shared their interests in reading and writing poetry about deeper issues like ethnicity-based poetry. “Family Matters,” was a deeper, more personal poem that was shared as a video on Youtube. Anita D, the creator of the poem, shares her family struggles compared to the funny, “normal” families she would see on television sitcoms like “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and “Family Matters.” Students took turns reading these poems and after each poem was read everyone could participate in analyzing or sharing how they felt about it.

The turnout of about 30 attendees was a bit smaller than previous years.

“You’d never know it because the room was still full of creative energy, Castro-Lewandowski said. “I am proud to report that even during Covid times, students have stayed close to us and we to them, through our class offerings as well as our virtual programming, which have increased in variety.”

Just this school year SSS has started a food justice initiative, hosted a watch party, and have had multiple social media campaigns. As May approaches, SSS already has events planned for the Mental Health Awareness month. These events consist of the Downtown Walk, a live Zumba event, a Campus Garden Walk, a Self Care meme workshop and other events that can be found on the SSS calendar.


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