Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
On September 27, OASIS (Our Art Spoken in Soul) had its first official open mic at Paces Café. OASIS was founded in 2010 and has quickly expanded into a crowd of really dope writers – dope, in this case, meaning really cool and talented. This crowd of writers has committed to having events on the last Friday of each month for the audience’s entertainment and for the poets’ enjoyment as well. The open mic was a product of OASIS’ hard work this past month. Most of their poems and songs dealt with the love of language here on campus. The performers used their craft to paint portraits of their lives. They were applauded for their artistic prowess, honesty, vulnerability, and overall awesomeness.
A small crowd amassed in Paces while soft melodies in the background set the mood for the night. As soon as a decent-sized crowd was seated, Julian Randall ’15, the MC for the night came on to the stage as soon as a decent-sized crowd was seated. As Randall directed the crowd in the ways of OASIS and spoken word, they learned the rules of being a great audience for spoken word performances. Such rules include, but are not limited to the following: no disclaimers, the poet on stage cannot speak negatively about their piece, unless of course they want to be yelled at. Second, the poet must be encouraged if they become nervous. The audience is asked to yell phrases such as “Go in poet” and “Get ya feet wet.” Third, the audience should thank the performer for their piece by clapping and snapping at the end.
The performances ranged from political statements to poetry about personal issues, reflections, pop culture, philosophy, to name a few. There were also songs about a variety of subjects; some that were comical, other that were deeply moving. There were many talented vocalists and guitar players and many wordsmiths igniting the stage with topics that spun the crowd in an emotional roller coaster.
Swatties rocked the stage with their incredible writing power, but Haverford students definitely held their ground when performing on our stage. People from every class could be spotted in the crowd, and even some recent graduates came back to grace the stage.
Mia Ferguson ’15 described the open mic as honest, supportive, and open. She enjoyed many pieces, but she especially liked Noel Quiñones’ ‘15 piece for its complexity. Quiñones’ piece, “Aries,” was full of colorful imagery. In the poem, he states, “I’ve aimed golden encrusted arrows so high they release themselves back to me and I realize they’ve only ever been bodega corner trinkets turned green.” Ferguson described Quiñones’ delivery as energetic and intense. Additionally, she was happy to see new people perform.
Eddie Zhang ’13, a recent graduate, liked Haydil Henriquez’s ’14 piece, which was about her hometown – the Bronx, in New York City. In Henriquez’s piece, “Weight,” she raises important questions about her identity, asking, “What is home when your bloodline declares you a migrant?” Zhang was also a performer and said that he has been around OASIS for a while and that it felt good to be back.
Summer B. Johnson ’17 enjoyed the open mic because it was a small, inclusive space where anyone that wanted to perform was allowed to do so. She particularly enjoyed Randall’s piece, “Dear Miley.”
“I didn’t know what to think about it, and Julian said what I was thinking, just better,” she said. Johnson also enjoyed the diversity in topics because it covered issues including blackness, queer identity, Miley Cyrus, and history.
The finale was announced by Randall’s performance. As the MC, he had offered every performer a warm introduction worthy of their talent. Henriquez, Quiñones, and Samantha Stevens ’15 took the stage over in order to return the favor. After some of his best friends welcomed him to the stage, Randall was ready. In a comical criticism of Miley Cyrus appropriating black culture, Randall discussed the negative consequences and representations that her actions brought.
When calling Cyrus out in his poem, Randall states, “Your hair looks like a goddamn stalagmite. Matter of fact looks like a steeple, face like whitewashed church, mouth spitting gospel of bleach bombed savior.”
At the end, the piece was well-received by the vocal audience. When asked about the performance, Randall said, “There’s always some nerves involved, especially if you have to close out the show,” but he maintained that it was an enjoyable experience all the same. At the end of the open mic, the audience and the performers became one as they exited Paces café, and many are looking forward to attending next month’s open mic.