Celebrating Black History through Poetry
Absorbing the passion and power of verse has been at the heart of Goodwin College’s Black History Month Celebration, as evident by two events where poetry provided the medium to understanding the past and future.
The events drew upon work inspired by contemporary and classic poets. The first featured a live slam poet, while the second was a workshop built around the legacy of Langston Hughes, perhaps the most famous poet of the Harlem Renaissance.
On Valentine’s Day, the College welcomed Jasmine Eaton, who goes by the performing name Jazz E, for a Poetry Slam and feature. Jazz E, an accomplished slam poet and spoken word artist, presented some of her work before a packed audience in the Goodwin Student Lounge.
Jazz E performed five poems, including “Dear Hip-Hop,” a piece that is critical of modern trends in popular movement where sexism and violence are idealized over a more positive message. As she spoke, students showed their agreement through applause and rounds of snaps, all while drummer Ernel Grant played beats.
(Note: Clip contains some strong language).
Jazz E is a member of “Poetz Realm” and is a member of the state’s competing slam poetry team. A Bridgeport native, she recited a new poem, “Where are We Going?,” inspired by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, which occurred about 20 minutes from where she lives.
Jazz E’s final poem, which is available to view through the clip, was an “Ode to My Brothers.” The piece blended romantic ideals with respect for individuality and confidence in the Black community and was a fitting for Valentine’s Day.
Eaton is a teacher, and in between poems, she quizzed the audience about Black History and instructed on the nature of slam poetry and spoken word performance.
Students from the Connecticut River Academy joined with Goodwin students on Wednesday, Feb. 20, in another poetry event. Members of the Bridgeport-based Slant of Light Theater Company presented a lesson on Langston Hughes, who rose to fame as a poet during the period known as the Harlem Renaissance.
Hughes is recognized as one of the original jazz poets. His work has inspired generations of writers and he helped draw attention to the injustices faced by Black Americans during the Jazz Age through the Great Depression.
Slant of Light members Nicholas Hattam and Stacy Ruttenberg led the event, which was held in Goodwin’s Hoffman Family Library. Participants studied some of Hughes’ more famous poems, including “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” as well as some modern slam-style poetry.
Intrepid students put Hughes’ verse to music, taking turns reciting poetry in rhythm with contemporary songs. Some students even took on Robert Frost, reciting the familiar refrain “and miles to go before I sleep” in time with music. The passage comes from “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” one of Frost’s most famous poems.