The Lyrical Cafe: emphasizing student voices and talent

Tori Smith – Staff Writer

As college students living in a very turbulent time, many may feel as if their voices on campus aren’t heard. Whether they’re fighting to change the name of the Linnaeus Arboretum or speaking out against the larger injustices that seem to plague our world, there are a variety of voices and perspectives represented on campus.
To give a platform to these voices, The Center for Inclusive Excellence (the CIE) started The Lyrical Café just last month. The Lyrical Café is an open-mic type event held in the lower level of Johnson Union.
Last month’s theme was “Black History: The Past & The Future”. Performers were invited to share their work, most of which was inspired by students’ personal experiences.
This Friday, March 26, the CIE is hosting another café with the theme, “I Would Rather Make History Than Write It,” a quote by Susan B. Anthony for Women’s History Month.
Last month, the Lyrical Café drew in many different students from many different backgrounds.

“The Lyrical Café is really an opportunity for students to express their diverse talents and skills through music, rap, poetry, and song.”
–Kareem Watts

“It was a great turnout, and I got great feedback from students who were excited to be there, especially after having been in lockdown. And as the students say, ‘it was high key lit’,” Watts said.
These types of programs illustrate just how important the center is to campus life. Hosting an event with the sole purpose of allowing students to speak freely about the things that affect them is exactly what the CIE is here for.
Many Gustavus students would agree that the center does an excellent job of promoting diversity and inclusivity on campus. Senior Amanda Braun is a supervisor in the CIE and feels strongly that the center is a space for everyone to feel accepted.
“It is a space for studying, tutoring, socializing, or resting. It is also a space to learn and engage with students who may have different perspectives than you,” Braun said.

“It’s about creating that type of atmosphere of inclusion on campus so all students can feel welcome and respected in their social and cultural identities.”
–Watts

The recent change in location for the CIE supported this work in inclusion by introducing a much larger space for students and staff to work in. The Dive now holds the Center’s offices, conference rooms and lounge area.
“Place and space are very important, especially for underrepresented students, to feel a sense of belonging,” Watts said.
Many have noted how much more welcoming the CIE is now that it’s been relocated. There are more offices for professors to hold office hours, more room to sit down and study or socialize, and more space to visit and walk around.
“Some students who were not familiar with the CIE would walk by in the Jackson Campus Center, but now here in the Johnson Union space it feels more welcoming and more open,” Watts said.
Without this relocation, events like The Lyrical Café would not be possible. Being able to host events that allow student voices to be heard is one of the best ways to promote inclusivity on campus while also holding the college accountable for their commitment of justice, diversity, equity and inclusion.
The CIE’s work doesn’t end there, however. Watts mentioned his conversations with Student Senate about collaborating with Humanize My Hoodie, a movement that highlights and demands an end to the murder of Black and Indigenous People across the world.
The CIE is always working to create programs and events that foster diversity and equity to campus.
“We put on a lot of events, so always keep your eye on any upcoming events and programs in the space,” Braun said.
To get more involved with CIE, students are encouraged to visit the space and participate in the important events they put on.
“I welcome everyone to come join in. It’s for everybody, so we would love to see you stop by,” Braun said.
For more information on signing up to perform at this Friday’s Lyrical Café or any in the future, email Watts or stop by his office in the CIE.
“Stop by anytime. My door is always open,” Watts said.

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