A multitude of students and fans of poetry alike filled the confines of the Cougar's Den on the evening of Wednesday, Feb. 14, as the Poetry Club, African Students Association at Kean University and Black Greek letter organizations Sigma Gamma Rho and Phi Beta Sigma hosted AfRHOcentric, an open mic night dedicated to creativity and inclusiveness that featured captivating, exquisite and intricate pieces of artistry in the form of poetry, rap, song and spoken word delivered by students from the Poetry Club at Kean University and other individuals from other schools who were interested in performing poetry or their own innovation to the crowd on the evening of Valentine's Day.
From 7 to 9 p.m., poets, singers and rappers of all kinds and backgrounds made their way to the stage on Wednesday evening, reciting original pieces dedicated not only to different topics surrounding love and relationships and school, but mainly to the topic of Black History Month and its importance.
Inside of the venue, two headlights illuminated the wooden stage, as the crowd looked upon the volunteering performers. A single microphone stood in the center of the stage, with a sign-in table right outside of the dining center, signing students and other members of the Kean family into the event. The first performance of the night was by Sade Govan-Smith, a senior majoring in communication studies and the president of the Tau Gamma chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Incorporated at Kean University.
While performing her own poetic piece to the onlooking poetry fans in the audience, she felt that an event like this did not only inspire students to get more acclimated to the many extra-curricular activities that surrounded students who wanted to get involved, but the night proved itself to be a special dedication to the historic month honoring the achievements of African-American leaders and people throughout human history.
"Overall, the event was phenomenal. I honestly did not have any favorite parts of the event because I enjoyed it from beginning to end. You felt the love for black history in there," Govan-Smith said. "I believed that this event inspired people to get more involved with groups on campus because they saw how nonjudgmental everything was. From Caucasian, African-American, to Hispanic performers, we had it all that night. I would hope that this program gave the Kean community a new found love for black history."
Other performances that followed the senior president of Sigma Gamma Rho gained massive applause from the audience, including one from Femon Padmore, a junior majoring in criminal justice with a minor in public administration and the president of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Incorporated. He believed that cultural performances such as the event that took place on the evening of Valentine's Day proved to be an influential one for those who needed a platform and opportunity to speak their poetic minds to an accepting audience willing to listen.
"[Phi Beta Sigma] feels as though having an open mic where people can perform songs, use their talent to do poetry or spoken word or their own music while educating people about black history and the things that still have historical implications today," Padmore said.
Padmore continued, "It is fun and at the same time, educational and influential to the people here at Kean University. There are a lot of activists within my fraternity, because that is the kind of people that we are. Any issue that we see in our community or within our nation, we act upon it. We are letting people know that there are a lot of brothers that have played a role in black history. Everyone did their thing and we all loved it."
Black history and current events regarding the instances of social equality for people of all backgrounds served as the main topic of discussion in a majority of poems Wednesday night. Some students incorporated their opinions about the current political climate in America, while others talked about issue of self-identity as a minority in the country they call home.
One student in particular, John Simons, a senior majoring in graphic design and interactive advertisement and a member of the Nu Sigma Phi Fraternity at Kean University, implemented the issue of "white privilege" and how people of a dominant culture subconsciously perpetuate prejudice in a series of spoken word monologues, all of which received long and standing ovations.
Attendees of the event were left with an artistic experience they will want more out of in the future, as proclaimed by Smiley Lewis, a member of the Kean community and viewer of Wednesday night's festivities.
"I believe that African-American history is so underrated. There are a lot of things to learn about black history, but there is such a short time to learn all of it. Unfortunately, Black History Month is the shortest month of the year. In reality, I think it should be the whole year, and that would give all of us a fair advantage," Lewis said. "This event was good. It was very entertaining, and I learned a lot."
For more on the happenings of the Poetry Club at Kean University, visit their official Cougar Link page. The African Students Association can be reached at their phone number of (973) 704-0172 or via their contact email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Lastly, information on both the Phi Beta Sigma and Sigma Gamma Rho Black Greek Letter organizations can be found on their respective Cougar Link pages as well.