SMC's Black history month initiates with rythm
After a week of record rainfall, the sun came out for five poets and their DJ on Thursday when the Associated Students presented the "Human Writes Project" as part of a series of events celebrating Black History Month.
DJ Undfine played the turntables while poets Jade Ross, Noni Limar, Bomani Watson, Gabriela Garcia and Mark Gonzales performed their poems at the Santa Monica College Clocktower during the activities hour.
"We're going to drop some words that will get you critically thinking while you're eating your food or chilling between classes," said Gonzales, when he introduced the poets at the microphone.
Watson started the performances with a poem that began, "Gas up the red Civic and rush on to the next venue." His theme reflected traffic problems in that made "Human Writes Project" a half-hour late to SMC. Watson contrasted the rush of traffic with the creative process, "Ready or not, I write on time," he said. In the poem, he attributed his inspiration to his mother's perseverance raising him.
Then Limar performed "My husband beats me," about a woman who takes physical and psychological abuse from her husband, an ex-soldier. "What's one black eye after taking all them lives?" she asked. Reflecting a returned soldier's post-traumatic stress, and evoking the nature of an urban war, she said, "He returned with bricks and guilt and plaster thick between us."
Garcia, who is a member of the Latino Theatre Company along with Limar, performed "Requiem for the Orishas." "Requiem" used religious iconography to describe the cultural destruction of Chicano heritage, and the ascendance of a "new god Unrepentant, birthing violence a god that exists only in fear."
DJ Undfine played the soundtrack for Ross, who scatted and sang her own version of "Raindrops," segueing into Gonzales' poem about the war in Iraq.
"Who knew the voodoo that G. Bush could do?" said Gonzales. He compared the Bush administration to dogs, giving people "Republican rabies." Gonzales ended with a play on an old nursery rhyme, saying, "Knick knack, paddy whack, put your mom on the phone. Johnny's bones are coming home."
Then Ross performed "I am Hip Hop," which described her overcoming others' negativity towards her through a positive self-image. "How can you say you love yourself when all you do is hate on me?" she asked.
In the second part of the performance, the poets had a round-robin poetry reading.
Watson performed a poem indicting hip-hop artists who glorify violence and firearms. He imagined revenge where, instead of bullets, black consumers of gang culture used words. "I'm taking all mine back," he said.
Limar performed "I am not an American." She associated herself with a positive black cultural identity, contrasting it with the United States' often-hegemonic political identity. "I am not Manifest Destiny," she said. "I manifest destiny."
Gonzales, a former HBO Def Poet, founded "Human Writes Project" three years ago to bring artists together to advocate for social justice. He said hoped to sensitize students to social issues through poetry. The name of the project plays on the idea of establishing human rights through written and spoken-word poetry.
Gonzales said the project brings together artists, street theorists and poets to "creatively deconstruct this world we live in." With membership somewhere between thirty and fifty performers, "Human Writes Project" poets have spoken at such diverse places as Duke University, local high schools and on the street.
Gonzales performed at SMC last semester as a guest at the Anti-War on the World Coalition's "Poetry Slam."
Gonzales closed the performance by commenting on the continuance of A.S. Black History Month events into March. "History can't be contained within a month," he said. "It's a yearlong process, a lifelong process."
The "Human Writes Project" kicked off the events scheduled for Black History Month. Upcoming events include an appearance by KRSONE that took place yesterday