Students perform at poetry slam for mental health awareness

By Heather Fabritze

Student Life Editor

In the Tawes Experimental Theater on Thursday, Oct. 6, Black Student Union led a poetry slam open to all students, staff, and faculty.

Last year, BSU hosted their poetry slam during Black History Month. The event was so popular that members of the organization requested that it be held in both the fall and the spring.

This iteration of the poetry slam, which was from 6 to 7 p.m., was hosted in recognition of mental health awareness week. The event was planned by BSU member senior Shannon Salandy. 

According to BSU President senior Mariama Keita, part of the reason BSU wanted to get involved with the week was due to the importance of mental health awareness to minorities on-campus.

“Mental health affects every minority, especially when reviewing the statistics and seeing that minorities receive approximately twice as less care as white people,” Keita said. “[Because] the depression rate of Black youth being higher, it was imperative to host something that showcased light to the important topic.”

Bringing awareness to the disparity also encouraged BSU’s executive board to add the event to their already completed schedule.

Many presenters took advantage of the opportunity to share their experiences with mental health.

Salandy said that she chose to perform her piece, “Sunshine,” in support of BSU and the week as a whole.

“The piece is about a person trying to find their way in a harsh world while simultaneously battling the harshness of their thoughts,” Salandy said. “The gloomy weather has an effect on them, and it matches their personality, but they hope that when the sun comes out everything will be better both literally and figuratively.”

Another participant, senior Jonah Nicholson, chose to take a personal approach with their piece, “Eye of Confidence.”

“It was something I created myself as a way to vocalize how I define confidence and what it means to me,” Nicholson said. “The most important line was about how confidence recognizes both sides of the coin. How you recognize your flaws, pain, etc. and don’t let them define you, instead strengthen you in your courage to carry life forward.”

Students could sign up to speak at the event ahead of time. A Google Sheets was sent out via email by BSU. However, audience members also decided to participate spontaneously after hearing the stories and performances of others.

According to Keita, sharing campus resources related to mental health was also a priority of BSU in hosting the event. Many presenters did so without prompting in their pieces.

“This gave power back to the individuals since we are stronger than any challenges presented to us, even if adversity is a battle in our minds,” Keita said.

The poetry slam was also used as a means for advertising BSU’s upcoming Morris Run. The event will be held on Sunday, Oct. 23 from 1 to 2 p.m.

The Morris Run will be hosted in collaboration with BSU, ShoreFit, the Student Government Association, and the Student Athletic Advisory Committee in honor of Thomas Morris ‘62, the first African American student to graduate from Washington College, who was a member of the track and field team.

Keita said she is looking forward to running an event from the “student’s perspective honoring him,” and that the work they have done so far bodes well for the executive board’s plans in the future.

“I am with a young, dynamic group of people who bring new perspectives to the team, and working alongside them is something that I am not only excited about but grateful for,” Keita said. “I believe that, as a collective, we will have an exciting academic year, and I could not have asked for anything more.”

Photo by Miranda Parrish.

Photo Caption: Senior Jonah Nicholson signed up to share his piece prior to the event.

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