From Rita Dove to Ray Charles, African American history is full of love for the performing arts. In a nod to this tradition, PSU’s Black Student Association (BSA) chose to host a poetry slam as part of their Black History Month programming.
The event was held on Feb. 10 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Root Coffeehouse and Creperie, located near Block 22 in downtown Pittsburg. Students were able to sign up to perform during the event via a Google Form distributed beforehand by Khadija Ceesay, junior in English, vice president of BSA, and lead organizer of the event. Students were also allowed to perform in the style of a traditional “open mic,” meaning they could perform for the crowd by approaching the mic whenever it became free.
“I wanted to put on (this event) because I really love poetry,” Ceesay said. “I think (poetry) is not appreciated enough, especially in a small town, so I really wanted everybody to get together and read their poems during Black History Month.”
One of the most notable aspects of the event was its location. Root Coffeehouse, once a hot-spot for open-mic events such as the BSA poetry slam, had stopped hosting said events in recent years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The collaboration with BSA allowed the shop, recently purchased by PSU director of media relations Andra Stefanoni and her family, to once again host performing artists in their space.
“(The event) was very easy to put on. I had to promote it really well and collaborate with a bunch of people, come to a place that a lot of people love and really like,” Ceesay said.
Several members of the Pittsburg community came to support the Black Student Association and the poetry slam, including undergraduate students, graduate students, and even a former Spanish professor. Participants in the event were also given a coupon for a free hot chocolate or coffee at the event courtesy of the Office of Student Diversity.
Ceesay chose to do a poetry slam through BSA for a number of reasons, though primarily because poetry is something she enjoys.
“(Each member of) the executive board of BSA is in charge of putting on one event, and this one was mine,” Ceesay said. “Since I am passionate about poetry, I thought to do a poetry slam. I don’t think there had been one by BSA in a while, so I wanted to do one. It’s really fun, and something I like.”
BSA hosts a number of events as part of Black History month. The next one, the sixth annual Martin Luther King Jr. Ball, will be held on Feb. 25 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the ballrooms of the Overman Student Center. The event will include catering from Sodexo, a DJ and dance floor, a photo booth, speeches, and performances.
Additionally, Root Coffeehouse is hosting an open mic night on Feb. 18 from 5 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. Potential performers can bring poems, songs, readings, and more to the event to present in 5-10 minute increments.