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The Path Forward

A Night of Spoken Word with the First Annual Black Student Union Poetry Jam

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Story Contributed by Julia DeRidder, Bay Path Student Newsroom Creative Arts & Events Supervisor

The Virtual Poetry Jam, hosted by Bay Path’s Black Student Union, was a night of both celebration and emotional reflection on the experiences of being Black and/or Afro-Latinx in the United States. Students and faculty from Bay Path University, American International College, Western New England University, and Springfield College recited original and classic poems.

The keynote speaker, Lynette Johnson (author of I've Been Meaning to Tell You: My Thoughts in Poetry, Purple, Supreme, and Only Love Can Do That: A Collection of Poetry Inspired by Love) was a highlight of the evening after an intermission featuring Black History trivia. Her dynamic poetry was enhanced by her interjections of advice such as to “be yourself," and “leave people who don’t treat you right." After Johnson read her poem “Evidence”, inspired by Sandra Bland’s alleged suicide following being arrested at a traffic stop (which is widely believed to be a coverup), she told us to keep this in mind: “I want you all to know, I did not kill myself. If I turn up missing, y’all have your instructions."

These warnings and declarations were mirrored throughout the evening, from Aprell Munford’s heartbreaking poem about her friend’s death due to police brutality, to Springfield College’s Felicia Lundquist’s line about how people preach “inclusivity, but we see inequity." Juxtaposed throughout the event, however, were moments of hope, resistance, and simple joy and beauty, such as Crystal Senter Brown’s poem "Home", and Ajanay Hill’s recitation of “Can You See the Pride in the Panther". Johnson ended her performance by saying,

“I am so glad that organizations are continuing to keep this going. Art is important. Poetry is important. Black voices are important. Keep using your voices. Keep making history. Keep being history.”

Trivia Questions

1. When was Black History Week first celebrated?

A. 1909  B. 1976  C. 1926  D. 1963

Who said this famous quote?

"I believe all Americans who believe in freedom, tolerance and human rights shave a responsibility to oppose bigotry"

A. Frederick Douglass  B. Corretta Scott King  C. Martin Luther King  D. Jackie Robinson

Speakers included:

Jemilia Delice, Eliman Jeng, Felicia Lundquist, VicKTory, Crystal Senter-Brown, Khyarah, Eligance, Aprell May, Rowanne Mustafa, Asim Waters, Ajanay Hill, and Lynette Johnson

Trivia answers - 1: C, 2: B

This article is also featured in the March 2021 issue of the Network News Student Magazine.