By Karoun Chahinian
Spoken word artists, rappers, poets and musicians celebrated black voices, stories and culture Wednesday at These Words Of Mine, a Black History Month event at the Ryerson Student Centre.
“Black History Month is about creating events that centralize the voices of black folks and that’s not a thing that happens often,” said Chrys Saget-Richards, one of the coordinators of the RSC and the head organizer of the showcase. “What better way to do this than through art and spoken word?”
Co-presented by the RSU, Caribbean Students Association at Ryerson, UnitedBlack StudentsRyerson, CESAR, African Students’ Association, and Urban Hip Hop Union, students and other local performers shared their painful struggles and triumphs through spoken word poetry, rap, and music.
“There are many black [students] at Ryerson and I believe it is a place where these voices are not always heard,” said Saget-Richard. “It’s important, not only for black [students] to be in the spotlight, but to also to have our allies in this space, so they can hear us telling our story from our point of view.”
Throughout the evening, the show had reoccurring themes of expression, struggle, empowerment, and oppression.
“Internalization for anything is terrible,” said Joshua Watkis, a professional spoken word artist. “If you don’t have an outlet, you’ll kill yourself, it’s toxic. [Spoken word] works for those who have the willingness to write and perform, but it’s just important to have an outlet, no matter what it is.”
Watkis pursued poetry as a career and has since then travelled across Canada to perform for audiences ranging from ten members to nearly a thousand. He describes the experience as “human.”
“It’s a whole different world up there,” said Watkis. “To find a connection with people you’ve never met and to interact with on a level that’s the most human and intimate is amazing.”
Another participant was first-year Ryerson social work student Kezia Shepherd, who has her own character for performances. Shepherd’s usual soft-spoken attitude is misleading, as she uses spoken word performance as a tool to release her repressed anger.
“Even though Ryerson is such a diverse school, I feel like racialised students don’t have enough space to express themselves creatively,” said Shepherd. “Having these moments are perfect for us to put into words what we’re not able to ordinarily express.”
Many of the performers and coordinators agreed These Words Of Mine were a chance for racialised performers and coordinators to speak up and make their voice heard.
“Your voice is the most powerful tool you have, do not be afraid to use it,” said Watkis. “It may be the the only thing that frees somebody who has been held back by silence.”