APRIL 12, 2016 BY JAKAYLA PHILLIPS
Anticipation filled the quiet, dim-lit room of nearly 20 people as David Romero stood before the crowd with the mic in his hand. Romero has opened for many musical acts and performed at several locations prior to UW-Milwaukee, such as the University of Central Florida, Champlain College, University of California at San Diego and more.
Romero set the tone of the event by performing his original poem, “Diamond Bars,” talking about being raised in the primarily Asian town, Diamond Bar.
“Maybe it’s a little ironic that, sometimes, I refer to the Latino gardeners on our block to remind me of our family’s past, and, well, my present, as every Saturday morning, I was sent into the lawn, yawning, typically hung over, pushing that lawn mower,” Romero said.
As a Mexican-American, Romero felt he was destined to be a yard worker; he could only look forward to his first lawn mower. However, instead of allowing that to hinder him from achieving success, Romero channeled that emotion into his poetry.
UWM’s Zeta Sigma Chi-TAU Chapter brought their peers together March 30 for an evening of poetry, music and games as they hosted their second annual Open Mic event with Romero.
David Romero is a professional spoken word artist from Diamond Bar, Cal. who said he became interested in poetry after attending an Open Mic event for the first time with a friend.
“I saw people for the first time performing spoken word, and I was like, ‘Wow!’” Romero said. “It’s like rap; it’s like theatre. It’s like the old poetry, stand-up comedy, and political speech. It’s a mix of all these different things that I love.”
Romero was the second poet to be featured on Russell Simmons’ ALL DEF Digital YouTube channel.
Zeta Sigma Chi created its Open Mic event in order to provide a platform for the audience to open up about situations they wouldn’t normally discuss with others, like Romero’s struggles growing up in his hometown.
Member Cinthia Téllez said that the Open Mic event raises awareness for things that are happening in the world, such as racial inequality and segregation, gun crime, rape and much more.
“It [Open Mic] allowed the people here to get very personal,” Tellez said. “I opened up about some things that happened when I was working at this restaurant, like the racial profiling happening.”
Téllez performed the monologue, “My Vagina Was My Village,” bringing recognition to the female Bosnian rape victims who were interviewed during the war in Yugoslavia:
“There is something between my legs. I do not know what it is. I do not know where it is. I do not touch. Not now. Not anymore. Not since,” Téllez said. “Not since the soldiers put a long thick rifle inside me. So cold, the steel rod canceling my heart.”
In addition, Vice President, Biltu Hambda, said that the event allowed their audience, including community members and UWM students, to be able to express themselves.
“We want other students to be able to speak what’s on their mind.”
Hambda referenced to a poem she performed, “In My Nappy Hair,” stressing the importance of one’s natural hair.
“In my nappy hair, the soul of Africa lives, which gives my spirit culture and foundation,” Hambda said. “Enlightening me on the essence of creation, brings me education and elevation of the truth of my beloved Nubian nation.”
Hambda said that she feels great about her hair, and she wanted to express that with the poem.
The performances by Romero and other audience members brought attention to specific topics like women’s rights, racism, life, self-love and heartbreak.
Last year, Zeta Sigma Chi’s main focus for its event was to give victims of hate crimes and police brutality a voice by providing a spoken word poetry workshop. The workshop informed the audience of people shot by the police, like Mike Brown.
UWM’s Zeta Sigma Chi-TAU Chapter, led by the President Keaunis Grant, is a multicultural sorority that said it values sisterhood, education, diversity and culture. The chapter hopes to continue hosting its annual Open Mic event in order to give their colleagues a voice and keep them informed about current issues.