Meredith Avakian, a political poet at Temple University, provided a break from the norm at Friday’s teach-in. Instead of following the usual format of a debate, students were treated to a rare glimpse of poetry performed live in the hopes of showing how just one poem can in effect change and have an impact on the world.
To emphasize this point, Avakian enlisted the help of several students.
Melanie Stewart and Shari Levine read pieces written by Bob Dylan and Alan Ginsberg, while students Charisma Williams, Nina Ball, Candy Beckett, Allison Macrina, and Montika read their own original pieces.
Clips from Def Jam were also shared.
Though all of the poems were political in subject, they were diverse in their themes and ideas. Performers shared their insights on Uncle Sam, the hypocrisy and inequalities of the United States and the trials and tribulations of the African American race.
Ball, expressed her ideas about the hypocrisy of the United States through her poem titled “God Bless America”, in which the opening is a spin off of The Pledge of Allegiance.
” I pledge my grievance to the flag of the defensive states of mass confusion, and to the illusion under which it falls, one nation under law divisible with liability and justice for… with liability and justice not y’all… with liability and justice for y’all… for liability and justice of those that fall under the right tax bracket?”
Macrina took a different stance towards the injustices of the United States in a poem titled “Self-Evident.”
“It doesn’t take a weatherman to look around and see the weather. Jeb said he would deliver Florida and boy did he ever,” read Macrina. “We hold these truths to be self-evident: number one George W.Bush is not our President, number two America is not a true democracy, and number three the media isn’t fooling me.”
After the readings, Avakian gave the floor to students to voice their opinions.
Those like Allison Macrina believed that change can be created no matter what the size of the audience may be.
Macrina stated, “Somebody has to be the prime mover by affecting change. It doesn’t mean however that you have to reach a large number of people; you can reach just one person and accomplish the same goal.”
Students such as Evan Hoffman felt that poetry created change due to its effectiveness.
“I felt my mind just going around it and opening different doors,” said Hoffmann. “It’s effective how you can jump around and just link it all together whereas if I were to talk about it, it would just be disconnected.”
“[Poetry] can create relativity and cohesion. It can give you that energy to want to go out and change the world.”
Some students however felt that change had already occurred and that poems were merely a way of bringing people together with similar ideas and giving them the realization that they’re not alone. Therefore, in a large group they can continue to bring about change.
Shari Levine brought the discussion to an end: “The more you listen to someone else and try to understand them the more change can be brought about.”
This was the idea that Avakian was trying to get across in Friday’s forum. Instead of having a debate with pros and cons, Avakian wanted to have a positive conversation in which different views and ideas could be absorbed and thought upon after the session.
“I think they really absorbed a lot of the information because of their feedback and the fact that they [the students] were such zombies, which is unusual for them,” said Avakian
At next Friday’s teach-in, the format will once again turn to debate with first Lieutenant J. David Fleming talking about his reflections and experiences gained as a marine stationed in Iraq.
Erin Schlesing can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.