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Alaina Chester, a sophomore studying integrated media and acting, performs an original acapella song titled "My Color" during the Creative Arts as Activism – Social Justice-Themed Open Mic Night at Casa Nueva on 6 W State St. in Athens, OH, on Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015. 

Social activism supports MLK Week at Casa

Students and faculty reach out to Athens through spoken word and music. 

Although Wednesday nights at Casa Nueva are famous for $3 margaritas, this week patrons were attracted to the venue for the activism, not the alcohol.

A sitting and standing crowd of 150 people arrived at the venue to tune in to the shouts of frustration and lack of progress in race relations. The Creative Arts as Activism Social-Justice Themed Open Mic Night, a part of Ohio University’s Martin Luther King Jr. week, provided an opportunity for students and faculty to express their personal experiences and views on social justice through performing arts.

 A total of 13 acts performed; the majority was spoken word or slam poetry. Some chose to express their feelings through song: Title IX, a female a cappella group, a guitarist, and a flautist.

Kaitlin Wilson, a sophomore studying theater performance and playwriting, emceed the night. She peppered her commentary with Martin Luther King Jr. trivia and performed a few spoken word pieces of her own.

“I think there is so much culture here in Athens, but not enough opportunity for people to express themselves like this,” said Jennifer Henry, a doctoral student in mental health counseling. “Especially for professors, and educators, there should be more to Athens than getting dressed up and going to the bars.”

Henry added that Athens needs to keep in tune with its history and keep up the culture in these mature settings.

The Athens Black Contemporary Dancers group was signed up to perform a routine, but had to back out because of limited space on Casa’s stage.

Many students and faculty showed up to support the participants.

“We have a pretty decent group of people who involve themselves in activism. I think the activism people have in mind is being on the streets and marching. I think activism takes many forms,” said Bobby Walker, a sophomore studying women’s gender and sexualities studies. “The activism that people don’t usually notice is the organizing, raising consciousness and getting people involved.”

Walker added that art could appeal to people in a different way than other types of activism.

“I wouldn’t depend solely on this kind of activism, but I think it goes hand-in-hand,” Walker said.

Sherica Hawthorne, a graduate student in international studies, said this is the first time Athens has promoted spoken word like this, and that she would like to see more of it.

“Yeah, it’s once a year, but after that, this kind of expression disappears,” Hawthorne said.

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