By: Alisa Festagallo
The room turned pitch black. A spotlight shined down on the first performer. The crowd anxiously waited to hear poems.
The African American Students Association put on its fifth annual poetry slam on Oct. 2. University of West Florida students and people from the community packed the Commons Auditorium to hear poets speak their words and connect with one another.
“This event facilitates communication skills as well as listening skills, and gives everyone the opportunity to let their voice be heard,” said Myliekia Stevenson, AASA president.
Stevenson said that AASA holds the event every year because students take on a lot with school, work and social lives.
“It’s nice to come and let go of your worries, and express yourself in a healthy way. It’s a way to keep the light going,” Stevenson said.
The poetry slam had 12 performers who read their poems about love, life and everyday struggles. Many of the performers had said they have never shared their poems with anyone before, but decided to share at the slam.
Brandon Robinson, a communication arts major specializing in broadcast journalism, was one of those students who said he was influenced by his friends to get on stage.
“I usually just write these for myself, and even though I don’t do this often, I guess I can kind of just get over my fear,” Robinson said.
Elizabeth “Mama Bear” Huestis attended the poetry slam for the first time. She recently started writing poems after attending an open mic night at Sluggo’s Vegetarian restaurant.
“It is very intense, empowering and very inspiring,” Huestis said. “I never wrote until I started going there about six months ago, and it is just amazing.”
Sluggo’s is located in downtown Pensacola and holds an open mic night every Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Stevenson invited local poet Quincy Hull to the event after hearing him perform his poems at a prior show. He read poems titled “Two wrongs don’t make a right,” “The blood dirty south” and “The Bastard.”
Most of Hull’s poems are based on personal experiences that range from the stories he heard from his great-grandmother to the counseling work he did with battered women and gang members.
“When I look out into my audience, especially young people, I am always trying to remind them of the struggles people before them have been through, which are still the same problems they face today,” Hull said.
Laszlo Barr, a senior art major specializing in graphic design, walked in to the event just in time to catch a familiar performer.
“I have seen Quincy at Sluggo’s, and I am always happy to see him walk in,” Barr said. “Every time I see Quincy, I am always like ‘ears up and ears open.’”