Black History Month kicks off with spoken word performance
Photo: Hofstra community members gathered in the Sondra and David S. Mack Student Center to celebrate Black History Month. Daniel Nguyen/ Hofstra Chronicle
As part of an annual program celebrating Black History Month, Hofstra’s Intercultural Engagement and Inclusion (IEI) presented the Black History Month Reception featuring a spoken word performance and workshop from Oliver W. Colbert on Wednesday Feb. 7. Held during common hour in the Sondra and David S. Mack Student Center Multipurpose Room, the reception kicked off a month-long program of events including a movie trip to see “Black Panther” and a screening of “Baltimore Rising.”
“My colleague in Residence Life, Britany Rhoden, had seen Oliver perform at Stony Brook University, and thought he was really great and had a lot of insight that our younger students could gain from, so that’s why we reached out and brought him to Hofstra,” said Gillian Atkinson, associate director of IEI.
Colbert, the keynote speaker, performed a spoken word poem before opening the floor to the audience in a poetry workshop that asked participants to share their values.
Colbert said the workshop asked people to participate in a conscious act of “connecting to our core values,” something most people don’t often do.
Members of the audience shared values like food, family, accountability, responsibility, money, freedom, communication, education and health. After audience sharing, Colbert asked everyone to cut down their eight values to five before asking them to cut down the list further to a final list of three.
In narrowing the list of values down, audience members said they were confronted by a moment of honesty when identifying the values they respect. Others were able to find values that easily transferred to others, such as family into love and vice versa.
Finally, in a call to action, Colbert asked the audience to analyze their values going forward before asking the room to read their list of three values and incorporate them into a short poem to be performed right after. “I liked that he incorporated the audience and got us to actually think about things that we value and care about,” said Alora Grant, a sophomore double major in rhetoric and public relations.
“Especially in this time, in this country specifically, [we need to] analyze our values,” Colbert said. “We love to talk about our martyrs, but rarely do we ever analyze what were their values. Their values were their guiding light. If Martin Luther King Jr. is someone you love, then you could nonviolent protest to his values. You could do this with anyone you consider a hero. And specifically this month, we are making black history. Especially brothers and sisters of color here. It’s just important to analyze your values, and let those be your guiding light throughout your entire life and journey.”
As the keynote speaker, Colbert asked the reception “how often do we evaluate our values,” and helped manifest these values into a self-fortifying act of expression.
The workshop concluded with a performance of Colbert’s spoken word piece, “The Trap,” a poem showcasing his own values of social justice, activism and solidarity. “All my poems are connected to my values,” he said. “I realized that once you really sit down and write down what you care about and really challenge yourself to choose which ones would have to go, when you get to your top three then you know those are at the core of who you are as a person.”