Poetry and spoken word have been instruments for expression and catalysts for creativity, constructing elaborate pieces of art throughout the extensive story of humanity. The art of constructing intricate pieces through the use of one's vivid mind and vocabulary have created memorable writings that had the power to inspire and motivate future generations, just with the use of one's voice and a pen to a piece of paper.
A variety of artists specializing in talents such as poetry, rapping, singing and dancing are currently chasing their degrees and desired careers at Kean University, and when given the chance, can use their special talents to blow audiences away. At any open mic night, members of the Kean student body that show desire in the art of expression through song, spoken word, prose or any other form of artistry can usually expect to see the Kean University Poetry Club make their inspirational and indelible marks on those who attend.
Their slogan, which encapsulates their mission of becoming a safe space for all creative individuals at Kean University as a means of artistic growth, says, "We are here to create with you, we are here to learn with you, we are here to explore with you, we are on behalf of the words we never said and we are the caged birds that sing. Here, our songs."
This club, composed of poets, singers and artists from a variety of different talents, aim to use their voices as a way to make a difference, as well as expressing their appreciation toward creativity. The club's objectives also include promoting uniting strengths in the poetry community and in cultural, social justice and academic interests.
Tierra Hooker, a junior biology major and pre-occupational therapy tract, is the president of the Poetry Club. The junior leader of this student group is normally seen at every event that the club hosts, serving as the official emcee and organizer of each performance taking place on the club's stage. Also, the president of this club wishes to not only inspire the attendees of the club's shows through eccentric rhymes and breathtaking monologues, but through the philanthropic efforts she and her group show when the performances are not taking place.
"As the president, I have put together a majority of the programming, including events and meeting agendas. Our events often consist of open mics. However, we have also recently included community service projects," Hooker said. "These include creating winter care packages for the homeless in the fall of 2018, raising money for the Raphael's Life House women's shelter in the spring of 2019 and even participating in Read Across America day at local schools in the spring of 2019. It is my job to make sure the club remains a safe space, in the sense of freedom to express and doing what you love for all members. I want the club to feel as much like a family as possible."
That familial feeling is exactly what drove Hooker to pursue a position in the club in the fall of 2016, as she dragged along a good friend of hers to learn more about the club prioritizing vocal freedom in her sophomore year.
"I was a sophomore here at Kean when I saw a flyer for a fall 2016 meeting and decided to drag a friend along. I have always been interested in poetry but joining the club sparked many more interests, specifically in performing," Hooker said. "[The Poetry Club president] at the time constantly urged me to take the stage and get outside of my comfort zone, influencing me to perform for the first time."
Hooker continued, "He expressed extreme genuineness and believed in me every step of the way. When he asked me to take on the role as president, I was honored. To be passionate about something for so long and then to be able to take it and make a difference or impact those around you, that is true joy."
The Poetry Club has been responsible for putting on campus-wide favorite events with the assistance of other organizations on campus, such as Bars for Blessings, which was an open mic night that raised money to create winter care packages for the homeless. Another event, titled Blacked Out, celebrated Black History Month. Other open mic nights like "Herstory" raised money for Raphael's Life House. An upcoming event that the Poetry Club plans to do for charity consists of a project for Cougar's That Care Day in collaboration with another organization, Operation PB&J.
Other co-hosted events that the Poetry Club put in place were Vibes Nights in collaboration with the Filipinos Uniting Nations at Kean (F.U.N.K.) club and "AfRHOcentric" with help from the sorority Sigma Gamma Rho earlier in the semester.
As the president of her organization, Hooker's responsibilities entail event planning, scheduling, processing and networking for collaborations and guest performances. She also plays an integral role in creating and organizing general body meeting workshops, managing the club's finances, updating and regulating social media or brand related subjects.
With the assistance of Chidinma Opara, the vice president of the Poetry Club in her first full term as the president of the Poetry Club, Tierra works with the vice president to balance the responsibilities of each board member. However, for the future, the club is open to making a creative board that will assist in event planning, networking, budgeting and social media marketing to gain even more notoriety for the Poetry Club.
Additionally, Hooker is a leader in many sorts. She is a member of the National Council for Negro Women (NCNW) chapter at Kean, a Ways and Means committee representative, a Leadership Education and Development (L.E.A.D) program representative, and a senior manager for the Involvement Center. For someone who has a lot on her plate, poetry has always been her muse, source of comfort and constant motivation to maintain the good name of the Poetry Club.
"Everyone says words don't mean much, but trust me, they're stronger than anything else. Being able to lead the Poetry Club has been an honor. It has taught me the strength in utilizing my voice to be impactful and meaningful in everything that I do. I know for me personally, the club helps me keep balance, and I am pretty sure a lot of members or attendees feel this way too," Hooker said.
Hooker continued, "It is inspiring to be surrounded by so many creative individuals such as those in our club. However, not everyone is able to express themselves in a free-flowing manner. As little as hearing something that resonates with you can serve as a relief or be just as inspiring as it is to the writer who shares."
Proud of the successful turnouts at events and the philanthropic efforts of her group in giving back to the community while being surrounded by an array of artists who all uniquely express themselves visually, verbally and without inhibition, the president of this club remains content and excited for whatever the future brings. For incoming freshman and transfer students who are interested in becoming involved through written and spoken artistry, Hooker wants to leave a legacy for her club through leading by example.
"The creativity that happens in a room with a bunch of creatives is magical. Everyone is understood, able to express, and at peace with their inner selves," Hooker said. "To lead by example is the best way to be impactful. I am an individual who knows nothing less than giving my all to things I am passionate about and driven toward. In any place, for me to be known for the feeling of my presence and the strength in my words is all that I need."
Though the club will not have any more open mic nights until next semester, more information on the Poetry Club can be found on its official Cougar Link page. Also, for those who are interested in the club and wish to sign up, email firstname.lastname@example.org.