Open Mic Night gives students a voice

Daniel Magalit

Janelle Monáe, Drake and Lauryn Hill were all there — in spirit at least. One could even feel Maya Angelou’s presence in the Multi-Cultural Center where political statements and hope-filled words took the spotlight for Open Mic Night.

Sons/Ancestors Players, in collaboration with Advocates for Black Feminism, hosted an open mic night at Sacramento State on Oct. 17 for a diverse crowd in an intimate setting complete with faux candle light helping to illuminate the artwork that adorned the walls and music playing, adding to the room’s ambiance.

Poet Shayanne Benjamin and singer Ayla “Rainbow Warrior” Dozier both performed original pieces with powerful commentary on the struggles people of color face in a hegemonic society.

Robin Fuller also used her poetry to speak out against societal inequalities, especially those against woman

“I wanted to get some people to the group that like to do what I like to do,” said Jannah Neal, ethnic studies major and vice president of S/AP.

As fast as names were being crossed off the performance list, they were being added. Many people were eager to share their thoughts in an artistic environment.

Shani Neal, founder of ABF, said it was really exciting to have a space where people can say what they feel without judgment.

“It doesn’t matter what you look like or who you are, what your race is, what your gender is, how you identify, none of that matters. Just be who you are and express yourself,” said Neal, a psychology and women’s studies major.

Author Sir Ken Robinson once said, “creativity is as important as literacy.” This statement practically sums up the experience of attending a college-sponsored open mic night.

The combination of education and creativity makes college students more adept at being able to say what is important and still be able to keep the attention of those listening.

“Open mics are important because it gives artists a chance to work new material and allows for those who are new to blossom,” said patron and performer Ike Torres. “For the audience, it provides grassroots entertainment.”

For that reason, events like open mic nights are vital for college students, especially students of color.

In a time where social issues such as police brutality in Ferguson are becoming common, it seems more important than ever to have the voices of future leaders, particularly future leaders that resemble the victims, be heard.

“[College students] are opened-minded instinctually,” said Torres.

Open-mindedness is another key component of an open mic night. It can be hard to remember, at times, that not everyone will agree with what someone else has to say. People won’t always agree on the level of someone else’s talent, but the open mic stage is a place of positivity and acceptance. The energy in the room demands it.

The words of each performer took the audience on a journey through their memories, experiences and beliefs. Some poets set the listeners in the streets of Ferguson, some shared their experiences with illnesses and hardships and some even made the audience hate their exes as much as they did.

Through all the words spoken in that two-hour span of time, a theme emerged: one of perseverance and hope.

The girls of S/AP exuded the essence of Maya Angelou as they performed the poem “Still I Rise” and gave off an aura that made everyone feel like no matter what was going on in their lives, things would be okay.