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October 10, 2013

CSU grads create poetry slam night
Students at CSU Speak Up

By Tara Harris

It all started approximately five years ago when Jeannise Andres and Chad Stephens, alumnus of Cleveland State, created the Speak Up Organization.

Under the direction of Dr. Michael R. Williams, director of the black studies program, they encouraged the students to create a poetry club. They have amassed a group of 27-30 active Cleveland State members.

Upon Stephen’s graduation, as remaining founder of the organization Andres teamed up with Takaya Williamson, a graduate student and treasurer of Speak Up organization, to create the poetry slams and workshops.

“After attending a poetry slam I became inspired to get into poetry, it’s a various experience for each individual,” said Williamson.

The Poetry Slams are held every first Friday of the month from 7-10 p.m. in Main Classroom. The event is free and open to the public. This past Friday was their second event of the year and had over 20 attendees.

“I come to listen to people speak their opinions and I love how the people are supportive of each other,” said Hannah Condow, a biology major and attendee of the poetry slam.
Anyone can participate in the Open Mic portion which is the first portion of the program.

Participants can recite their own poetry or something already written. The second portion is the Slam, where contestants pay $5 to compete for a prize of $100.

There were pizza, sandwiches, cookies and soda available. Andres handed out pens to inspire writing and balloons to create a fun environment.

“It’s all in love and fun,” said Brandi Gibsion a.k.a Cali a.k.a lady panther, communications major and performer.

Dwayne Castleberry, communications major and president of Speak Up, said their mission is to promote freedom of thought and to engage the students. He said the biggest struggle was getting the word out about the organization.

“I saw a flyer and have been attending ever since,” said Kelton Latson, a English major and published poet. “I like to discuss the importance of love and overcoming adversity,” he said.

Andres, also host of the program and a teacher at Noble Elementary School and lead instructor of the Champs afterschool program pays out of pocket for this program, with the help of the officers of the organization, who she called amazing, until they can get funding from the Student Government Association.

She gets the crowd going with mantras such as “Grand Slam” and “When I Say Speak, You Say Up.”

Participants volunteer to recite their poetry, some with encouragement by Andres to express themselves. The poets recited acapella without music but kept a steady pace. The artists have strong messages and fantastic analogies and metaphors. Some audience members teared up from the raw emotion coming from the performers.

After a few poets, there was an intermission. Friendly chatter, laughter and music fill the room

There were six poets who signed up for the grand slam. There is a second round with three of the poets.

The winner of the grand slam was Felicia Turner, a sophomore psychology major. “I wasn’t expecting anything, It feels great to win,” she said.

The workshops Andres offers take place in the same room as the slams, MC 136, to create a comfortable environment.

“I created the workshop because not everyone is a performer and this will help them become more comfortable and want to speak up,” she said.

She encourages new writers to come to the workshop.

There will not be an event in November because the group is going to Auburn University for the Association of Black Cultural Centers, which is having its 23rd annual conference from October 31 to November 2.

To find out more and to join, visit Orgsync and search, and like Speak Up Poetry Slam on Facebook. Stop by any Monday at 7 p.m. and be sure to attend their last slam of the semester on December 6. Speak Up contact phone number is 216-687-3655.