Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Poetry exchange celebrates BIPOC authors

Wednesday, September 2, 2020
Mckenzie Eston of Cape Girardeau recites "Black Woman" by Wilton Antonio McGlory during the BIPOC Poetry Exchange Friday.
Photo by Nicolette Baker

Jada Guzman of Cape Girardeau took to the mic at the BIPOC Poetry Exchange event Friday with her original poem on creating change, prefaced with a few words from Angela Davis. Several more individuals shared quotes, poems, thoughts and spoken words from Black, Indiginous and Person of Color authors.

“Change does not wait for us to be ready; change is ready for us not to wait,” Guzman said.

BIPOC is a term developed to help better describe the unique challenges faced by these communities. The Poetry Exchange was designed to highlight creative voices from BIPOC authors.

“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change, I am changing the things I can no longer accept,” Guzman said, quoting Angela Davis.

Several speakers and audience members emphasized the unique ability of poetry to enact change and convey emotion.

“It’s powerful because I feel poetry can do more than a speech; there’s a rhythm to it that I feel like is natural to our bodies,” Aiyana Williams of Cape Girardeau said. “When someone is speaking, you can feel their emotion in the rhythm they use.”

All guests were invited to speak at the poetry exchange, Guzman said; there were not any scheduled speakers. Guzman, as well as other members of the Midwest Council for Civil Rights, organized the event which they hope is the first poetry night of many.

Event organizer Shelby Seabaugh said poetry was chosen for the event because it can be an important form of expression to the BIPOC communities.

“I think that hip hop and poetry and spoken word is really integrated into the Black community; it’s something they hold very dear to them,” Seabaugh said. “I believe poetry reveals the inner depths of our souls almost. There’s a lot of emotion involved with it, and at a time like this where emotions are high, I think it’s good for all of us to let that out in a healthy way.”

Guzman said the The Midwest Council for Civil Rights organized in June and has focused on activism in the form of peaceful protests in Cape Girardeau as well as community events.

A chance of rainy weather Friday didn’t prevent the poetry night, which was held outdoors and socially distanced from 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at 20 N. Pacific in Cape Girardeau. A $5 cover change benefited the Justice for Madi group as well as venue fees.

In August 2019, 15-year-old Madison Robinson was shot and killed at her Cape Girardeau home, according to a Nov. 26 article by the Associated Press. Murder charges were filed and later dropped due to a lack of witness cooperation. Yameka Robinson, Madi’s mother, has since led the group demanding justice for her daughter’s death.

More information on the Midwest Council for Civil Rights may be found on their Facebook page.