SIU student poets perform at election-focused slam poetry event


Re’Jean Pink, a freshman from Chicago studying English, raises her fist while reciting a poem Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016, during a Salukis SPEAK poetry slam at the Student Services Building. “I like that I get to hear what other people have to say,” Pink said of the event. Salukis SPEAK have two more forums planned for this month. (Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

Racial inequality, police brutality and education were on the minds and lips of students Tuesday night at a slam poetry competition centered around the 2016 presidential election and the implications it has for SIU students.

About two dozen people gathered in the Student Services Building for the event, which is part of the university’s Salukis SPEAK series, as nine poets performed their pieces. The series has invited students to openly discuss topics of national interest such as privilege, the Black Lives Matter movement and the Orlando nightclub shooting.

Simba Woodard, a junior from Nashville, Tenn., studying journalism and sociology, was voted as the winner for his piece, “It must be the devil.”


His poem focused on hardships of the underrepresented people of America. Woodard said after the show that part of the message centered on how the presidential election is regarded as more of a popularity contest than a selection process rooted in education about the issues.

“People don’t realize we’re voting for who’s going to actually run our country,” he said.

Though the event was themed around the election, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were not mentioned much by the poets, who instead opted to discuss the issues important to them.

Re’Jean Pink, a freshman from Chicago studying English, read an untitled piece on racial inequality, violence and the role social media plays in current events.

“We get hashtags with no solutions,” Pink said. “…we’re not just hashtags. We’re solutions.”

Noah Leverett, a senior from Carbondale studying therapeutic recreation, read a piece titled “Say to Me” concerning the importance of respecting women.

But Leverett and Pink said police brutality is one of the most important issues surrounding the election.


“We need to be properly educated first, in order to speak on what’s going on, in order for people to actually hear what we have to say,” Pink said.

Despite the difference in styles, subject matter and delivery, the students shared a common message: Speak and make your voice heard.  

“A lot of people are not voting because they don’t agree with either [candidate], and that’s a big issue,” Woodard said. “It’s better to choose than to not choose at all.”

Staff writer Hannah Cooper can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @hcooper_DE.

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