They cried during the poems, and tears continued to leak after the performance as many of them lingered, talking in groups.
Andrea Gibson, the spoken word poet who had been brought to campus, moved them very deeply. Andrea's topics ranged from body image to PTSD to marriage to depression to preschoolers, and their* voice and cadence was enveloping.
It was one of those times where you realize how powerful art and performance is. And how we could have had a discussion on any one of those topics, but even the best discussion wouldn't affect the students in this profound, emotive way. Andrea's lines in "Yellowbird" really hit home: "Why is art/The first class to be dropped by any public school/...Dr. King did not/Write a speech called 'I Have A Dream'/He wrote a poem/Called 'I Have A Dream'."
As a country we celebrate art when it's convenient but not when we'd have to divert precious defense budget or other monies to keep art and music robust and stable in public schools. And even in a private college like mine, it's so crucial to make sure that art in its many forms is an integral part of programming, to keep it front of mind.
If you're not already a disciple, check out some of Andrea's videos below, and then check out their tour schedule here to see if you can catch Andrea when they're near your town. Or even better, bring Andrea to your campus if you can!
Some of my favorite pieces from Andrea's evening at Vassar:
"Then of course/There’s always the somehow not-quite-bright enough fluorescent light of the public restroom/'Sir! Sir, do you realize this is the ladies’ room?'/'Yes, ma’am, I do, it’s just that I didn’t feel comfortable sticking this tampon up my penis in the men’s room.'"
"The trauma said/Don’t write these poems./Nobody wants to hear you cry/about the grief inside your bones”
"The day my ribcage became monkey bars for a girl hanging on my every word"
*Andrea's preferred pronoun is they/them/their, or using Andrea instead of a pronoun