CSUN Poetry slams hurtful language
Students shared their deepest and most heartfelt poems, songs, and verses Wednesday night in the Northridge Center for CSUN’s third “Change Your Words” week event called Espressions.
As part of the “Change Your Words” week, the theme of this week’s Espressions focused on the awareness of inclusive language. There were 19 people who participated in the open mic by performing lyrics with music they wrote or speaking verses in the form of slam poetry.
“No one else can share your voice like you can,” Espressions host and former CSUN English major Sean Hill said.
The first performance to gain snaps of approval by the audience was a song backed with acoustic guitar about the student’s frustration with the current politicians running for president.
Sociology major Nadine Lomeli acknowledged that Espressions is an event where CSUN comes together by choice for something that students believe in. “At events like this you can see what’s going on on campus behind the busy, hectic work,” Lomeli said. Referring to CSUN students, she said, “You get to see a different side of them.”
Another student surprised the audience with her powerful delivery of her poem about women’s empowerment.
Psychology major Amber Barboza said she has been to Espressions at CSUN three times because it brings the community together. “It gives students an outlet to express themselves and show off their individual uniqueness,” Barboza said.
The audience went silent as the dark emotions came from the students who performed poems about depression, death, uncertainty, pressure, and difficult experiences they had gone through in their lives.
Some students attended Espressions in the hope of fueling their own creativity with the inspiration acquired from the performers. “Others’ talent can help influence your own,” said Kinesiology major Oscar Pralta.
The mood was lightened when a student shared his experience hitchhiking around foreign countries and coming to terms with his homosexuality.
Other performances talked about the feeling of falling in love, having role-models to look up to, and growing up surrounded by racial tension. After the first wave of performers, the mic became open to any member of the audience who wished to share their piece.
“It’s beautiful when people come up here and they didn’t think they were going to do this,” Hill said as he introduced new performers as they gradually signed up. Some performers announced that Espressions was especially meaningful to them because it was the first time they had ever read their poetry aloud to anyone.
Gabriel Luansing, president of CSUN’s Hip Hop Culture club, talked about how events like Espressions make students feel like they have a place to showcase their talent. “It’s a cool thing for people to want to come together and say, ‘hey, this is what we do.’ I know for people like our group, we respect that,” he said. Luansing read a poem he wrote about dealing with depressed thoughts and dark moments, and then lightened the mood with an upbeat rap about living in Los Angeles under his rap persona “Mr. Master.”
Aside from announcing the names of each performer, Sean Hill also shared two poems of his own with the audience at the beginning and end of the event. He explained that poetry and music are, for some people, a way to tell personal stories about their lives that can sometimes be therapeutic. When people shared poems of tragedy or emotional turmoil, Hill followed the performances with words of encouragement.
“Sharing these stories with people makes that burden infinitely less to bare,” Hill said. He explained that his own inspiration for writing poems comes from family, things in his life that impacted him, and worldly issues he thinks will inspire people.
Hill encouraged the audience and performers to keep expressing themselves by speaking out inclusively. “Getting up here on this stage and taking the risk of being looked down on means that you are gaining strength and overcoming fears,” Hill said.
Espressions is held every year at CSUN and put together entirely by current or former students. Refreshments and raffle tickets were given to each person that attended, and the performers stayed after the event to mingle with the audience, make connections, and talk about the experience.