In celebration of the 2017 Black Arts Festival, 5C Spoken Word group Motormouth held another night of slam poetry at Scripps College's Motley Coffeehouse on Feb. 10. The event was in partnership with Wanawake Weusi, an organization committed to supporting Scripps students who identify as black.
Motormouth's performance followed an open mic opportunity, where people from the audience could perform onstage, especially “black folks who wish[ed] to voice themselves and share oral art with their community,” according to the event's Facebook page.
The theme for the night was “Hidden No More,” encouraging more people to take pride in their true identities. Many audience members loved the poems and seeing people of color come together.
Sabina Villalobos SC ‘20, a frequent attendee of “Brown Noise,” thought the night was particularly beautiful and wonderful.
“I think the fact that it is Black History Month made a big difference [to the event],” Villalobos said. “The theme ‘Hidden No More’—just really having that [theme] in our minds, and remembering like, ‘yeah, we’re worth it'; we have so much worth that people need to value and understand.’”
Villalobos also said that the performances were especially strong at conveying emotions to the audience.
“Listening to everyone speak, their words really get to you,” Villalobos said. “They make you think, and they make you reevaluate how you feel. I felt that a lot tonight. I feel proud in my community, I feel proud to be who I am, and I really feel proud of my peers.”
Villalobos said her favorite poem performed was one about hair, which she considers one of her “defining features as a person of color.”
Another audience member, Alexa Johnson SC ‘20, commented on how powerful the event was to her.
“I was very impressed with the eloquence and the creativity of the poets,” Johnson said. “They successfully communicated ideas that many people in the audience were strongly affected by—ideas like oppression and racism, which are very prevalent, especially with our current political situation.”
“I think events like this poetry slam are necessary to bring people together in order to talk about and fight oppression,” Johnson said.
Motormouth was formed precisely to support different groups of people. Founder Avery Jonas PO ‘20 got a group of his friends together over the summer after realizing there was no slam poetry group at the 5Cs.
Jonas was part of a New York City competitive slam team, Urban Word, during his high school years, and decided to bring the tradition with him to college in hopes of creating a safe space for young writers to express themselves through Spoken Word.
Eliamani Ismail SC ‘20, another prominent member of Motormouth, was also part of a youth slam team in Washington, D.C.
“Carrying slam over to college was kinda just like the next rational thing to do,” Ismail said. “[Spoken Word is] an aggressively healing place, especially for people of color and marginalized communities, and so we wanted to bring some of that here.”
Although POC-oriented, Jonas acknowledged that the group was founded on creating a safe space for everyone.
“Motormouth is a group open to anybody,” Jonas said. “But at the same time, we want to make sure that we balance things out for people of color … [We want to] create a place where [people of color] can share their work, especially when their positions are politicized because their identities are often politicized, so giving them that space to be political without being [condemned] like, ‘What the hell are you doing?’” he said.
Motormouth has been an important resource for people of color wanting to connect with different opportunities on campus, including writing poems, stories, speeches, and delivering them at various events at the 5Cs. Motormouth members are also working hard to form an official competitive slam team soon.
Ariel So SC ’20 previously served as TSL’s editor-in-chief.