With Black History Month on the horizon, the passage of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and ongoing national conversations about race and identity, Yale’s four cultural centers are also making moves to stand for unity and cultural understanding.
This Thursday, “Voices of Hope & Resistance,” an annual poetry slam poetry and open microphone event, will be held at the Afro-American Cultural Center beginning at 7 p.m. The event, which is free and open to the public, will feature both student performers and local New Haven poet Frank Brady.
“We see at this moment with the election and the climate, we’re trying to build intercultural solidarity and resistance to social injustice through poetry and artistic expression,” said Paige Tucker DIV ’17, a graduate assistant at the Afro-American Cultural Center who coordinated the event. “I love poetry and spoken word. I think it can be therapeutic for people and it’s a time for people to be joyous and to honor MLK and the trailblazers who fought against injustice.”
Tucker also organized the event last year and said that the show was met with great success. Approximately 100 Yale-affiliated attendees and members of the New Haven community flooded into the Af-Am House to watch locals and students perform.
This year, the event is sponsored by all of the cultural centers at Yale, including La Casa Cultural, the Native American Cultural Center and the Asian American Cultural Center, to promote intercultural solidarity.
The lineup includes members of on-campus spoken word groups, WORD and Teeth, as well as two musicians, Kaye Burchfield ’18 and Nick Brooks ’17. Brady will close the show with a poem touching on themes of social injustice, current events and the civil rights movement. He was a featured guest in the cultural centers’ poetry slam last year and served as a panelist for the annual Black Solidarity Conference at Yale in the past.
“I feel that events such as these are necessary to build understanding and unity across race, class and background,” Brady said. “Moving forward, poetry and the arts can be used as essential outlets to process what is happening in our society, as well as a coping mechanism to deal with and to promote mental health and self-care.”
Though the event is affiliated with Yale programs and institutions, reaching out to the New Haven community was of equal importance to members on the planning committee. Tucker said that while Brady does not represent all of the New Haven community, his presence will be enriching and more indicative of the community that the centers’ programs represent.
Burchfield is also a member of the Yale a capella group Shades, whose repertoire focuses on the African diaspora and African-American tradition. She said that through her experiences with the group, she has been able to experience the educational power of black music in allowing generations of people, especially people of color, to support one another.
Brooks, who is also involved with Shades, will perform an original song for the event.
“I’ll be performing an original song ‘KING’ in honor of King and all he stood for and to honor the many victims of police brutality this last year,” Brooks said. “I believe in King’s dream for a more unified America where the color of your skin is not a barrier to enjoying life.”
The show is part of a larger program of events meant to commemorate MLK Day. On Jan. 21, the Af-Am House will lead a trip to Washington for the Women’s March and sponsor a film screening of “Hidden Figures” and a lecture with the author, Margot Lee Shetterly. The center is also organizing a MLK Keynote Address featuring Diane Nash on Jan. 25.