By Samantha Brandbergh
Audience members were faced with gripping questions during spoken word artist Elizabeth Acevedo’s performance in the pub on Nov. 11
“Do you know how easy it is to forget a pot of beans when you’re numb?” she asked them.
This line, from her poem “Beloved, Or If You Are Murdered Tomorrow” refers to the night she heard of the Jordan Davis case going to trial while she was making beans and rice. The incident took place in 2012, when Davis, a 17-year-old black boy, was shot at a gas station in Jacksonville, Florida, over loud music.
Acevedo was inspired to write this poem, she said, after her fiancé told her to leave him, for the fear he may not come home.
“He said, ‘I’m a bad bet; I might not live long enough to make you a wife,’” she said. “For him to make this statement was the most distraught I’ve ever seen him. We were learning a new name every week, a new hashtag, a new man who looked like him.”
The pub provided an intimate setting for the equally intimate and personal poems being performed.
Sophomore popular music studies major Alexis Green, who won Rider’s Got Talent last year, and sophomore political science major Dalin Hackley opened the show, each performing pieces which mourned those lost to police brutality.
“Did all lives matter before or after Sean Bell was shot the night before his wedding, and his bride-to-be had to walk down what seemed like a dreadful memory lane instead of an aisle to see the man she loved dead before she had the chance to say ‘till death do us part,’” Green recited from her poem “Dream Deferred.”
Hackley’s piece “I Am the Change” expressed how the news can hit home for many people, including himself.
“One out of three black men, at some point, will be locked up for rehabilitation, not addiction, incarceration,” he recited. “So you look into my mother’s eyes and see the realization that she has four black sons and one of us might get taken.”
These chilling and emotional works were just a preview of what was to come for the remainder of the evening.
Acevedo performed an array of poems containing themes of race, gender and culture, particularly in one entitled “Afro-Latina.”
“My parents’ tongue was a gift I quickly forgot, after I learned my peers didn’t understand it, I rejected,” she recited. “Much preferring Happy Meals and Big Macs, straightening my hair in imitation of Barbie. I was embarrassed of my grandmother’s colorful skirts and my mother’s [broken English] which cracked my pride when she spoke.”
Acevedo blended English and Spanish throughout the poem, honoring her Dominican heritage she once never fully embraced.
Although many of her poems are sad and thought-provoking, she shifted themes and recited a poem she wrote after her fiancé suggested she write about joy.
Although she told the audience she “failed” at writing a happy piece, the final product, entitled “Bittersweet Love Poem,” successfully told a story of finding the one you love while still being independent.
“I’ve learned that being my own woman meant listening to no church bells ’cause I’ve already acquired all the choir I need,” she recited as the audience cheered and snapped.
Acevedo also took the opportunity to talk about the election results with the audience, explaining how she stayed up until the early morning watching the polls, hoping for a “miracle.”
As a result, she wrote a poem the next day, which she read from her phone.
“I know a myth about a man — it’s always a man — who received word about a disaster. He built a wooden structure, he put all the creatures in it,” she recited, comparing Donald Trump’s plans as president to Noah’s Ark.
“But an ark is not a country, and we were never the sheep; we were always the flood,” she recited. “The black, the brown, the Latinx, the Pacific Islander, the indigenous people and Muslim and queer and trans and woman and we are rising, don’t you see? We will cover this whole country before we ever recede.” Her voice soared as she read these last lines, and the audience erupted in applause.
Acevedo ended her 45-minute set by reciting a rap verse she wrote as a teenager. She explained to the audience she wanted to be a hip-hop artist, but Bow Wow “took [her] spot.”
The piece had smooth hip-hop lines such as “I’m not Diana Ross but I reign supreme,” as well as motivational ones.
“Stop sleepwalking, create dreams while you’re awake,” she recited. “And remember, that gods don’t make mistakes. And remember, the gods in us never make mistakes.” As she made her way back onto the stage, Acevedo was met with a standing ovation from the audience.
Although the tone of some of her poems are somber, Acevedo’s breaks between them showed her humility, telling stories to the audience ranging from her childhood to present day.
Her poems of race, class, gender, culture and, occasionally, love, allowed the audience members to leave feeling inspired and driven to make a change.
Acevedo’s poetry collection book “Beastgirl & Other Origin Myths” is currently available on yesyesbooks.com.
Printed in the 11/16/16 edition.