In a college community the concept of student run organizations has been very beneficial, and has provided students with an outlet to take on leadership roles while being involved in things they love. For me this is true with my role as the president of Cultural Expressions, also known as CE, which has helped my love for poetry to grow greatly.
Cultural Expressions is a student run organization that was established in October of 1997. This year will be our 20th year as an organization. The main purpose of Cultural Expressions is to allow students to express themselves through different outlets such as poetry, spoken word, rap, singing , and even dance.
Cultural Expressions is a multicultural group and is based out of the Multicultural Center, specifically, the Gwendolyn Brooks Cultural Center on campus. As a multicultural organization we pride ourselves on being welcoming to those of all cultures and promoting unity within the college community.
Our organization currently meets bi-weekly, on Tuesdays in the GBCC lounge of the MCC, and on Thursdays in the Casa Latina Lounge of the MCC, and we are always welcoming new talents.
During these times we focus on different skills tailored to each talent. Currently our group is comprised of poets, so in our meetings we work on practicing different forms of poetry writing and we also practice performance skills. Cultural Expressions is also known for our Open Mics that we put on once a month, in which we open the floor to any student at the university to share their talents. We’ve had performances ranging from pianist, and guitarist, to comedians, and dancers.
Students who are a part of the organization also have the opportunity to be guest fillers-in events for other organizations. One of our favorites was participating in Take back the Night here in Macomb. Having an organization such as Cultural Expressions is highly beneficial for students as it provides students with a safe space to share their emotions while doing so in a style that they enjoy.
The art of poetry and spoken word is something that possesses a lot of power. Poetry is a language within itself and it can speak to people on such a broad spectrum. There is a quote by Rita Dove, that states, “Poetry is a language at its most distilled and most powerful.”
A lot of people question what makes something a poem, is it the length, or the rhyming? To me it is neither. It is not the length that determines the quality of the poem; however, it’s the content that creates the masterpiece. With a pen and paper you can open up the portal to a whole new dimension.
The value of poetry is something that not many realize or understand. In today’s society, and especially in college, there are people with many different personalities coming from many different backgrounds and it is hard to get people to understand you. It seems as though nobody understands your feelings, your culture, or your views on societal issues. Anxiety begins to kick in as you find it difficult to communicate your feelings with others, whether it is because you feel as though nobody will understand you and what you’re going through, or you feel as though you’re invisible and nobody cares.
These are feelings that I have experienced, but when I am in the world of poetry all these emotions seem to disappear. I have used poetry to open up and let my voice be heard.
Our motto in Cultural Expressions is “Hear My Voice”, and that is exactly what poets want to do. Poetry and spoken word has helped so many students around the world to build a foundation where they are free to share their voices and feel no regret for doing so, and that is the most amazing part. Poetry gives you the ability to share your views, strip your shields, and share your emotion in the raw. When reading or listening to poetry you begin to realize that there are more people who view things the way you do, or feel the same emotions you feel. It is fascinating to see how sometimes two people may be going through the same thing, yet the way they formulate their expressions to that situation may be completely different.
Poetry has the ability to be an outreach for children of all ages, from all different backgrounds. I believe it should be introduced in school curriculum from an early age and carry throughout each grade level.
Dating all the way back to the 1500s with the work of William Shakespeare, to the works of Robert Frost, to Langston Hughes, and Maya Angelou, we have seen how the art of poetry can significantly impact our society.
As young poets we should continue to share our voices, and use our talents to make a difference in the world.
Taylor Walker is a junior at Western Illinois University, majoring in Social Work.
The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the University or Tri States Public Radio. Diverse viewpoints are welcomed and encouraged.