Black Student Union hosts ‘The Vibe’ poetry slam
On Feb. 25, the SLO Performing Arts Center Pavilion received an intriguing temporary makeover. Tables topped with candles and draped in black tablecloths seated guests for a joyfully bold celebration of Black culture and artistic excellence: the Black Student Union’s (BSU) Open Mic & Poetry Slam called “The Vibe.”
Spoken word and poetry comprised the majority of the evening’s performances, with students and faculty alike using the genres to express themselves and the larger impact that Black artistry has on society.
Sophomore Alicia Allison’s stirring composition entitled “Sweet Nothings” received the grand prize from the event’s judges, while English and ethnic studies faculty Dr. Ashley Clemons and Dr. Unique Shaw-Dismuke recited original poems of their own.
As an English professor, Clemons prefaced her performance by acknowledging the sweeping cultural significance of Black literature.
“The Black literary movement has captured the music, it’s captured the social conversations of the day, it’s captured with the political speeches of the day,” Clemons said.
Following the event, Clemons spoke about the deeper connection between artistic and cultural expression.
“This stage has been an important part of Black history as we understand American history, American literature and all that good stuff,” Clemons said. “The performing arts, the creative arts — it’s amazing that they’re honoring it in this way, I think they’re doing great.”
The spoken word and poetry performances that ignited the dimly lit venue were also joined by song and dance. Nadja Braziel kicked off the event with a rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” a song often referred to as “The Black National Anthem.” It represents the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement and the initiative for Black liberation and empowerment.
A brief intermission during the event also saw attendees performing the “Electric Slide,” a line dance choreographed by Ric Silver to Marcia Griffith and Bunny Wailer’s Jamaican hit “Electric Boogie,” which is a song rooted in Black culture.
In addition to providing a platform for artistic expression, BSU’s “The Vibe” also turned the spotlight to Black-owned businesses.
Business administration freshman and budding entrepreneur Tibyasa Matovu stood behind a table sporting merch for his brand Kemetic Clothing, which he launched in October of 2022. Matovu mentioned that the event’s significance extends beyond celebrating artistic expression.
“Specifically for the Black community at Cal Poly — which we all know is fairly low — I think it’s important to have these events to kind of give a safe space to people of color and minorities that come through and represent themselves and express their identity,” Matovu said.
Communication studies sophomore and co-president of BSU’s external affairs Nailah Dubose saw the event in a similar light: as a great success and a step in the right direction toward amplifying Black voices and stories at Cal Poly and beyond.
“I’m so glad that it went so well. I really wanted it to be intimate and really create connections and community, and that’s exactly what we did,” Dubose said. “And this is the best way to pay homage to our ancestors as well as celebrate the closing of Black History Month by talking about the past, present, and the future.”
For information and updates on future events held by BSU, follow @calpolybsu on Instagram.