PNW Pioneer

Poetry slam celebrates resilience

Brookelyn Burks, junior at Merrillville High School, won third place for her performance at the Feb. 15 event.

Brookelyn Burks, junior at Merrillville High School, won third place for her performance at the Feb. 15 event.

Christopher Anguiano

Christopher Anguiano

Brookelyn Burks, junior at Merrillville High School, won third place for her performance at the Feb. 15 event.

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Aspiring poets performed pieces with themes of love, family and skin color at the Building Community Through the Arts poetry slam on Feb. 15 at the CHESS Art Gallery in Hammond.

Local poets Moises Pulido, Kaila Buggs and Brookelyn Burks were awarded first, second and third place, respectively. The winners each received a cash prize, funded by the Legacy Foundation and by a donation from Dr. Mark Jacobi and Judith Jacobi, assistant vice chancellor of University Art Collections & Special Programs.

Poets from PNW who performed at the event included Malcolm Jones, Julia Cook-Jones and Shania Mitchell.

“I was inspired by my girlfriend and my hometown of Gary,” Jones said. “Especially how my girlfriend is also from Gary, we’re both a product of our environment and I wanted to show my love for my city.”

Local poet Krystal Wilson, poetry event organizer Jamia Steele and Young Chicago Authors teaching artist Britteney Black Rose Kapri served as judges for the event. Karen Bishop-Morris, interim department head of English, was the event’s emcee.

Event organizers Judith Jacobi and Rachel Pollack, web and events coordinator for CHESS, said the theme for this year’s poetry slam was “Still I Rise,” taken from Maya Angelou’s poem of the same name.

“We have a lot of young poets coming, so I thought it would be really great to see how they take that theme and make it current and relevant to them and their generation,” Pollack said.

Pollack and Jacobi said that the theme resonates with people because they can relate to the stories of these poets.

“We’re looking at a people who in years past, certainly through the experience of slavery and Jim Crow, had to show their resiliency in the face of segregation, degradation, harm to their physical being and to their spiritual being,” Jacobi said. “I think ‘Still I Rise’ is a great way of encapsulating the ethos or the central theme to their experience, in this case through the writing of these gifted poets.”

The exhibit also showcased art by Maya Angelou, Gwendolyn Brooks, Langston Hughes and Tupac Shakur. Pollack said the poetry slam is a platform for young artists to build experience and gain interaction.

“It’s a great way to expose young people to these poets and the art,” Pollack said. “Through the displays we have we can expose them further to the art and the cultures and experiences that go along with it.”

Regarding this year’s black history month events at PNW, Pollack and Jacobi prioritize reaching out to the diverse student, faculty and staff population.

“When we talk about diversity and inclusivity we need to put our money where our mouth is, so to speak, because we take that very seriously,” Pollack said.

Moises Pulido, first place winner and Hammond resident, performs in front of Britteney Black Rose Kapri, one of the judges.


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