Last week, the Benjamin Mays Center opened its doors with a warm welcome to Sister Outsider, one of the nation’s most prominent and powerful spoken word duos. Sister Outsider travels to numerous colleges and universities in an effort to facilitate change and stop our society’s marginalization of minority groups. Exactly one week later, Village Club Series continued their spoken word trend and brought student written poems to the stage.
Student performances of spoken word have always been a popular at Bates College, which is why events like this spark conversation and allow the student body to indulge in the intimacy fostered between the poet and the audience.
At this past week’s VCS performance, Anna Berenson ’16, Becca Ferguson ’18, Will Hallet ’16, Britiny Lee ’19, Rakiya Mohamed ’18, and Nick Muccio ’16 shared their art. Their personal poems epitomized the essence of spoken word and gave the audience a new perspective on the topics they were putting out in the open.
Ferguson shared three original poems in this performance. One entitled “Thanksgiving” exposed the social display of Native Americans in the United States today. She said, “I wanted to explore the way media, education, history, and citizens consciously and unconsciously appropriate Native culture.”
This particular poem was written out of Ferguson’s long lasting fascination with Native American history, especially the ongoing issue of Native American rights. “When I was a junior in high school, I went to Rosebud Indian Reservation and lived amongst the Lakota population there for two weeks. During that time I observed poverty and anger caused by both the American justice system and appropriation of Native cultures and traditions by our society.” This experience paired with Professor Joe Hall’s Native American History course, inspired Ferguson to write this poem questioning some of the conscious and unconscious examples of cultural appropriation today.
The second poem she shared is entitled “MJ.” She spoke about “transitions between high school and college and how friendships can be lost or strengthened through this process.” Written right before her high school graduation, this poem expressed her personal fears she had of losing relationships and friendships during the transition from high school to college. What made this experience so special was the fact that one of her friends from home was visiting her and got to see Ferguson perform this heart-wrenching and truth-telling poem live.
Her third and final poem was untitled and revealed the often neglected subject of catcalling and marginalization of women. This poem was certainly more “slam” than the others because the tone was packed with the fear and anger Ferguson herself has felt during her time at Bates with regards to catcalling. “I have experienced, heard, and observed catcalling and seen how it causes discomfort and self-consciousness in women. I personally think catcalling is obscene and believe that it should be discussed and questioned more openly on college campuses across the country. I wrote this poem to try to educate people about my perspective.”
Overall, Ferguson enjoyed the supportive atmosphere VCS offered during her first slam poetry performance. “The space is very open and lends itself to an intimate performance, and I really appreciated the opportunity to share my words at a VCS event.”
While she is new at writing this type of poetry, she plans on continuing this path. As a firm supporter in spoken word, she believes it can be an “effective method of communicating a controversial message or feeling and getting an audience to see something in a different light.”