As wind and rain pounded the street outside, a crowd of nearly 100 people crammed inside an art space on Broad to listen to singers, poets and speakers share their ideas on poignant social issues in America.
Last Thursday night, VCU’s student organization Amnesty International, Amendment literary journal and slam poetry team Good Clear Sound collaboratively hosted “Slamnesty” — an event for voices of all ages to raise awareness on issues ranging from police brutality to xenophobia.
I think that the energy of an open mic is really just awesome,” said Brandon Duong, a member of Amnesty International. “It’s a very open space–a very positive and nurturing space. We tried to accommodate for every person’s voice.”
The open mic allowed people of different ages, ethnicities and genders to speak to the crowd. People continued signing up to perform as the event was ready to begin. There was such a big turnout at the event that by the time each seat and open space was filled, the organizers were still squeezing between audience members to pass around the clipboard full of names of performers.
Some of the acts included sophomore member of the TheatreVCU department Jafar Cooper, who recited an original poem speaking on his experiences with racism, members of VCU’s a capella group, R.A.M.ifications, who performed with their newest members, and speakers updated the crowd on their efforts with nonprofits and charities around the city.
This isn’t the first “Slamnesty” event in Richmond, but this one in particular was meant to reflect on significant events of the past few years, from the death of Trayvon Martin to the Prison-Industrial Complex.
The idea in this Slamnesty was to express that idea that police brutality and the abuse of law enforcement affects different groups differently,” Duong said. “A middle-class white American might perceive it differently than a lower-class Latino or a black male.”
Brittney Maddox, performer and president of spoken word group Good Clear Sound, was one of the key organizers of the event. Maddox coordinated early on with Amnesty International, who approached her with the idea to host an open mic on police brutality.
I asked, ‘Are you talking about Black Lives Matter or are you talking about Iguala 43?’” Maddox said. “There’s different facets to police brutality. We started talking about other things like aggressions from the police post 9/11.”
‘Iguala 43’ is a colloquial term for the abduction of 43 male students from Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico. The international scandal in 2014 led to the condemnation of Mexican administration and the arrest of dozens of government workers.
Ultimately, Maddox said the event was to promote equality and community while learning about one another. Maddox said that discussions about the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Sandra Bland weren’t over, and they should also bring attention to less sensationalized occurrences both in and out of the country.
I think now, post 9/11, we’re starting to see more things like Ahmed and the clock. You wouldn’t see that happen to any other ethnicity,” she said.
Cyrus Nuval, president of Amendment Literary Journal, talked about how his staff has worked on troubleshooting for the event and collecting performers. He said that the mantra of Amendment also coincided with the principles of “Slamnesty.”
Social expression through artistic expression,” Nuval said. “Whenever a student wants to create a literary piece, art piece, multimedia piece or movie piece, we accept it and review it and we publish it.”
One of the things he thought was worthy of discussion was police ego. He insisted that the mentality of police officers who place themselves above civilians is what escalates what would be otherwise insignificant encounters.
Spectrum Editor, Austin Walker
Austin is a sophomore print journalism major. He started at the CT as a contributing writer, and frequently covers work done by artists and performers both on and off campus. He hopes to one day be a columnist writing about art that impacts culture, politics and documenting the lives of extraordinary and everyday people. // Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn