“O, let America be America again—The land that never has been yet— And yet must be—the land where every man is free,” said Langston Hughes in, “Let America Be America Again”.
The first Black History Month Poetry Slam will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 19 in the Kyla Relaford room in Macomb Hall.
Adjunct English professor and writing skills specialist for Student Self Service, Athena Castro-Lewandowski said,“It’s an excellent location because Kyla was a mentor and champion for students of color on campus so if we’re going to be honoring them and their history, it makes sense to do it in that location.”
Castro-Lewandowski created the poetry slam hoping it would become an annual event on campus to celebrate black poets and diversity on campus. She wants to promote the writing arts side of the english department as well. The student affairs division wanted to embrace events that celebrate diversity and make it a priority.
“We’ve been having conversations all year in our division to basically help people to appreciate each other,” said Castro-Lewandowski.
There will be three judges evaluating performers based on physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, evidence of understanding and overall performance. The grand prize is a $25 gift card to the college store.
Poems by Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou and Nikki Giovanni will be performed by four featured students Marie Alcis, Angelika Velez, Angelique Hammie, and Ciarah Richmond. They will be reading original poems as well as the works of black poets. After their performances the mic will open up for anyone to participate by reading an original piece or a black poet’s work.
Freshmen theater major Angelique Hammie is a featured poet. She saw the event advertised by a friend and was immediately interested.
“I like to be a voice for other people,” Hammie said.
Hammie has participated in poetry slams before in New York City. She participated in the play, “She Kills Monsters” and will be performing in the play “Peter Rabbit” on March 8-11 in the Myers Hartman Theater on campus.
Hammie will be reciting Langston Hughes “Let America Be America Again” and her original work, “Triple Conscious”. Her original poem relates to W.E.B Du Bois’s idea of a double conscious: being an American and black. Her poem is about being black, American and a woman.
“It’s just a good way to get my message across to talk to other people who don’t really know what we experience or to women who do have these experiences but don’t have the voice to speak about it,”Hammie said.
Castro-Lewandowski got in contact with sophomore Marie Alcis to participate in the competition. Alcis had taken Eng 100 with Castro- Lewandoski her Freshman year.
“Athena is just an amazing person and professor. To this day I still go in her office and speak to her about life,” Alcis said, “She’s very open minded in that class and she teaches like that. She puts herself in her class.”.
Alcis will be performing “Blackbird” by Nina Simone and an original work called “Gasping”. She started writing poetry in highschool when she was on the debate team. Alcis had to find a strategy to express herself on the team.
“I use to write poetry as a method to express, I guess the black struggle especially in the debate space,” Alcis said
Castro-Lewandowski wants the poetry slam to provide a place at SUNY Plattsburgh for students to express themselves through poetry.
“There is always a place for you if you know who you are,” said Castro-Lewandowski.