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Women’s Open Mic Night features exceptional student artists

Student performers took to the stage at the Multicultural Student Center to share original pieces of poetry to close out Women’s History Month

The audience was intimate but supportive as students approached the microphone to share original words from their journals and Notes apps.
The audience was intimate but supportive as students approached the microphone to share original words from their journals and Notes apps.

In collaboration with the University’s Women’s Center, the Multicultural Student Center held a Women’s Open Mic Night Thursday as a final celebrative event for Women’s History Month, creating an open space for all female-identifying community members on Grounds to share poetry, stand-up comedy or personal thoughts and experiences. 

Students trickled into the MSC at the event’s 6 p.m. start, sitting and greeting one another, eating pizza and preparing for the performances. The event opened with a brief introduction from Taylor Nichols, education and outreach specialist for the Women’s Center on Grounds.

The audience was intimate but supportive as students approached the microphone to share original words from their journals and Notes apps. Student performances touched on themes ranging from deep platonic affection to complicated familial relationships and were often anchored in exploring womanhood — particularly experiences unique to women of color — in honor of Women’s History Month. 

Though several students initially expressed discomfort and apprehension about speaking, their voices were confident and self-assured as they finished in a flourish and received applause. Muntaqa Zaman, a fourth-year in the College and one of the speakers at Thursday night’s event, spoke about this supportive community.

“The first time I performed here during my second year, I was super nervous,” Zaman said. “I remember after I performed everyone was cheering for me and clapping and they were super excited.”

Zaman acknowledged that students who have never performed poetry before may be nervous to bear personal thoughts and experiences in front of a crowd. However, she encouraged interested students to try their hand at reading poetry, explaining how sharing poetry can be a powerful tool for emotional healing and a way to connect with others. 

“Your feelings and your emotions are a lot more relatable than you realize. I think a lot of times we tend to think that I’m the only one who’s this way, but when you share something with someone, especially through poetry, you’ll find that there’s so many other people going through the same thing,” Zaman said. “It’ll help you feel a lot less alone. So be brave and share, because you won’t know what you find.” 

When Josue Castillo, third-year College student and MSC intern, was helping to plan this open mic night, he reflected on the importance of giving people — and for this event in particular, University members who identify as women — a chance to share their own stories as opposed to speaking for them. He explained how the very concept of an open mic allowed for this concept to come true.

“So as an intern, I recognize that I'm doing a lot of events that are about identities [that] aren't necessarily my own,” Castillo said. “With the work I try to do, I do my best to make sure that rather than speak [myself], I give a platform for people … to share their [own] experience and express themselves. I thought an Open Mic Night would be great.”

Castillo continued to mention the theme of the night’s event and the MSC’s partnership with members from the Women’s Center. Although the event was focused on student and community voices, it was also an incredible opportunity to inform students on the values and countless services offered through the hard work of the University’s Women’s Center.

“I wanted to include Taylor [Nichols] from the Women's Center just because of how much of an energetic person she is and also…to let students know about the Women’s Center, and all the great work that they do to support women on Grounds,” Castillo said.

Zaman’s approach to the theme of Women’s History month led her to share a poem centering on childhood experiences and exploring how traditional gender roles may have contributed to those experiences. Several other performers’ poems dealt with themes of friendship and romantic love, celebrating womanhood through relationships. 

Audience members praised the poets’ performances after the event. Castillo was particularly impressed by the vulnerability and passion of the performers.

“A lot of the pieces were really beautiful, and I’m impressed by just how passionately they were worded,” Castillo said. “It’s something [non-artists] don’t do, so it’s really surprising… It’s amazing to see how much you get to know someone through poetry.”

Third-year College student Shamir Ibar was also touched by the theme of the open mic night and noted that they found out about the event through Flux, a student group that allows students to perform and appreciate original works of poetry at weekly open mics and workshops. In attending the Women’s Open Mic Night Ibar was able to actively admire one of the most important women that they know.

“I met someone who's in Flux … and she told me about this event happening this Thursday,” Ibar said. “It's Women's History Month and also my mom's birthday, so this is one way I could honor women and one woman in my life.”

Alongside the Open Mic Night, the MSC offers weekly programming to support and empower marginalized and underrepresented students. The Center is hosting “Things I Wish I Knew” Tuesday, a speaker series featuring personal stories and advice from a diverse group of faculty — a leadership development program for Asian, Pacific Islander and Desi-American students and an event for Latinx students admitted to the University. A full calendar of events is available on the MSC website.


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