Outspoken and Out Open: A Night of Spoken Word and Poetry

Outspoken and Out Open: A Night of Spoken Word and Poetry

Pictured clockwise from bottom right: Aminah Dzananovic, Dania Noghnogh, Caroline Rothstein, Callie Smith, Teresa Webb, Julius Mansa, Tony Styxx, Rae Karim, Latifah Ali, and Matt Davis.

Pictured clockwise from bottom right:
Aminah Dzananovic, Dania Noghnogh, Caroline Rothstein, Callie Smith, Teresa Webb, Julius Mansa, Tony Styxx, Rae Karim, Latifah Ali, and Matt Davis.On April 19th in conjunction with the 2015 Butler Artfest, the Desmond Tutu Center hosted Outspoken and Out Open: A Night of Spoken Word and Poetry featuring a talented line up of artists who shared original pieces related to the Butler Artfest theme “outlaws and outsiders.”

The DTC intentionally selected artists representing a diverse array of community and faith backgrounds, with the goal of creating a space for diverse perspectives to intersect with one another.

Event emcee, Tony Styxx, added energy and enthusiasm to the evening as he introduced each artist. First up was Matt Davis, a local artist, educator and entrepreneur whose first poem was about the importance of cultivating a robust art scene, calling on fellow artists to support one another’s work. The second spoke to his evolution as an artist including the challenges he faced as a creative child in traditional education.

Aminah Dzananovic was the second artist to take the stage performing a poem written for her dad, a survivor of the 1995 Bosnian War. Beginning with a beautifully sung Bosnian lullaby sung to her as a child by her father, she tells the story of the 8,000 Muslims killed during the Bosnian War.

Next came Rae Karim, a CTS graduate who asked the audience to clap along with her as she performed a piece with a theme of ‘you are light,’ telling the audience to, “be courageous, and shine!” Her piece included a proactive reference to God as a she, because she says, “God doesn’t always need to be referred to in the male form.”

Then, Atlanta-based performer, Latifah Ali, shared her “9/11 Story” about living in the post 9/11 United States as a Muslim. Her second poem, which she performed for the first time, painted a powerful picture of race in America told from the perspective of a black mother faced with the constant fear of losing her son.

Continuing on the theme of race, New York City-based spoken word poet, Caroline Rothstein took the stage starting with a poem about dealing honestly with racism as a privileged white Jewish female. Her second poem describes how she uses the language of Judaism to grapple with the untimely, tragic death of her brother. Her last piece was a poem she wrote specifically for the event in response to RFRA entitled, “My G-d is a Queer G-d.”

Next up was Dania Noghnogh, a first generation Syrian American, who performed two poems written just a few hours earlier including one centered on the story of Noah’s Arc—shared by Muslims, Jews and Christians— and how it represents a second chance to get it right.

Julius Mansa, a young leader in the Indianapolis Muslim community, performed next, humbly explaining that spoken word serves as an outlet for him to express what is in his heart. He shared two poems both centered on religious and socio-political themes.

Rev. Callie Smith took the stage next with a piece entitled “Nothing” that was inspired by her journey to become an ordained minister—a path that she never expected for herself growing up as a white, Christian woman.

Teresa Webb, a Native American storyteller, closed the evening with a strong presentation. Accentuated by the steady beat of her hand drum, she talks about helping her people who were driven off their land and robbed of their culture move forward, stay strong, and find hope.

The evening lived up to the goal of the event, as each performer opened themselves to the audience and poured out their hearts through their words. It is impossible to justly represent the evening without letting the artists and their poems speak for themselves, so we invite you to watch their performances by clicking the link to the video below.

Click here to watch a video recording of the event.

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