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Poetry night to honor Black History Month and feminism

#SpeakUp is hosting a Black Heritage Poetry night sponsored by the Ohio University Multicultural Center Thursday at Jackie O’s Public House Restaurant.

The event will include a night of spoken word poetry performances honoring Audre Lorde, a New York, African American feminist, lesbian rights activist, poet and civil rights activist of the 20th century. The event will be an open mic event, so anyone is invited to read their own poems or read Lorde’s work. Black Heritage Poetry night will also include renowned Athens local poets.

Students, staff and community members are all invited and are asked by #SpeakUp to contribute positively to the event by showing respect to all poets.

"This is one of #SpeakUp’s signature events, the open mic poetry slams, that we have been doing since fall of 2018 every semester to hear all women's voices against gender-based violence,” Claudia Cisneros, #SpeakUp president, said.

In honor of Black History Month, #SpeakUp is focusing Thursday’s poetry slam on the talents of an African American poet. The event will be a celebration of black history and feminism.

“This time, in the context of Black History Month, we thought of incorporating explicitly the race and non-binary gender intersectionalities by honoring feminist activist Audre Lorde,” Cisneros said. “I say 'explicitly' because all of our events are inclusive and open to all genders and voices, but this time we wanted to make the point of explicitly incorporating intersectionality and focus the event on women of color and the feminist struggle.”

Intersectionality, which Audre Lorde was an advocate for, is taking into account not only gender, but also race and socio-economic class when looking at a group that experiences injustices.

“I think more people should get to know her because of what she did with feminism and oppression struggles,” Cisneros said. “Part of what she is fighting for is that women accept each other’s differences and support each other.”

Anyone who is interested in speaking or reading at the event, whether the work is their own or honoring Audre Lorde, should let Cisneros know when they arrive at the event, or email her ahead of time.

Winsome Chunnu-Brayda, director of the Multicultural Center, is a supporter of Audre Lorde’s activism and her beliefs.

Chunnu-Brayda said that oppressive systems never collapsed because people sit back and say, “It is how it is,” similarly to how Lorde said that asking nicely never helped shut down injustices.

Chunnu-Brayda’s favorite quote of Lorde’s is, “Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society’s definition of acceptable women…know that survival is not an academic skill. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths. For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master's house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.”

Chunnu-Brayda said the quote is everything that she loves about Audre Lorde, and everything she strives to be as a black, immigrant woman.

“Those of us who are coming from backgrounds of people who were poor, who were slaves, who died for our freedom to allow us to have opportunities,” Chunnu-Brayda said. “That fire in your soul…that firm belief that there’s something in your soul…if I’m coming from any disadvantaged background, I need to fight for I want or nothing will happen. That’s what Lorde is saying.”


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