By Maddie Stagnaro – Staff Writer – firstname.lastname@example.org
Poet, activist and environmentalist Marc Bamuthi Joseph entertained an audience with spoken-word poems concerning several different social and environmental issues in Lipinksy Auditorium last Thursday night.
“We brought him to UNCA because of his community organization, his nontraditional connections and his talent as a spoken-word artist really stood out,” said Cori Anderson, cultural events program coordinator at UNC Asheville.
Joseph, currently one of America’s Top Young Innovators in the arts and science, program director of Youth Speaks and co-founder of Life is Living, began his performance with a blank word document on the projector screen and asked his audience to define the word “hate.”
“Hate: an emotional disapproval,” he said.
“Unacceptance,” “greed,” “shame,” “hungry” and “instant gratification,” were some of the words he defined. Others included neglect, self hate, racism and capitalism.
“My ancestral line starts with hate,” Joseph said. He began poetically and rhythmically speaking about the words he just defined.
He said hate leads to ignorance, which leads to racism, which is where slavery begins.
“I don’t want to be in the dark. I don’t want to be dark. I don’t want to be. I don’t even want to be,” Joseph said before he jumped up on stage to tap dance.
According to Joseph, when the slaves were first brought to America, they used tap dancing as a way to recreate the sound of African drums. He said his father did not approve of him learning to tap dance back in 1984.
Joseph then went on to speak about family, community, equality and common ground.
Tamiko Murray, a women, gender and sexuality studies lecturer at UNCA, said she loved his connections with environmental justice and specifically how Joseph reaches out to communities of color.
“His statement that a segregated social movement would mean we all lose, really spoke out to me,” Murray said.
Students in attendance said they were surprised by the performance.
“I really didn’t know what to expect coming into this,” said Valentin DeLeon, a senior mechatronics student at UNCA. “I came because I have an internship at the student environmental center and I’m working on conference to diversify environmental movement, specifically focused in western North Carolina.”
Joseph’s speech included a lot about the importance of family and the struggling relationship he has had with his father.
Murray said she enjoyed his use of personal testimony and experience to discuss social justice and putting it in a poetic rhythm made it even more entertaining.
“I think he was using it more as a tool,” DeLeon said. “I think his message was much bigger and the poems were to keep people interested, but he was very artful with his words and movements.”
Murray said she thinks students should explore Joseph’s works.
“He is inspirational, he’s an innovator, and I love how he used the concept of home and community to educate about social and environmental issues,” said Murray. “Students who were not able to attend should explore his work because he is a brilliant thinker.”