“This is the art of drawing breath” were the words that welcomed the students gathered in Alumni Hall for an evening of spoken word. Two-time National Poetry Slam Champion Guante used the medium of spoken word to powerfully convey messages of social justice, love, and identity.
The idea to invite Guante to perform arose from a discussion at an M-Pact meeting last year where former M-Pact Co-President Josh Connell ‘13 suggested inviting Guante after stumbling across his video, “10 Responses to the Phrase ‘Man Up.’” Connell thought his message mirrored M-Pact’s mission to explore gender and identity, so this year Senior Co-President of M-Pact Erik Anderson helped bring the idea to fruition.
Anderson was impressed by the turnout to the event and similarly by Guante’s performance.
“Guante is incredible at getting people to think and promote discussions about these topics,” Anderson said.
Featuring poetry that highlighted gender, race, privilege, and other social justice issues, Guante described his own performance as an intersection of rap and spoken word.
“I think it just showed the intersectionality of all identities and just talking about social justice,” Anderson said.
Organized by M-Pact and promoted by Alpha Sigma Tau, whose philanthropy is domestic violence awareness, the event had a sizeable turnout. A mandatory educational event for both members of the AST and the Reds, Alumni Hall was full of fraternity and sorority members, including many Omega Kappas as well.
Sophomore Hayley Nemmers was involved in planning the event as M-Pact Representative on Diversity Leadership Council as well as a pledging member of AST. According to Nemmers, many of the AST members who attended the educational event enjoyed the performance. She was pleased that both male and female groups were represented at the event and expressed high expectations for future events .
“Within DLC we are beginning to have shop talks about important issues that will hopefully turn into events,” Nemmers said.
Many of Guante’s pieces explored the meaning of service and allyship along with examining whether or not change is being realized.
“We need people who volunteer at the homeless shelter…but how do we make it so that people don’t need the homeless shelter?” Guante said.
The Reds chose to make Guante’s spoken word performance a mandatory educational event because his messages are directed towards gender identity as well as the necessity to act as agents of change. Typical educational events involve speakers related to sexual violence and being positive male role models, and the fraternity became involved in the spoken word event through their connections with M-Pact.
According to Senior Co-President of IGS and Reds member Torey Asao, many attendees did not know what to expect from the spoken word performance and were pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t just a speaker.
“People really enjoyed it and were taken off guard by it,” Asao said. “After, a lot of guys looked up his music and checked out spoken word.”
Guante emphasized the potential for power and pain to create change, and this message resonated with his audience. Many attendees were moved by the emotion in his delivery and appreciated the accessible, contemporary feel of the spoken word genre.
“It’s such a passionate way to describe change and talk about social justice issues,” Asao said.
Anderson was pleased at the large numbers that came to see Guante as well as the group of twenty or so who stayed after the performance to engage in a social justice-based discussion.
“Seeing events where so many parts of the community comes together for a common purpose, is always happy to see.”