Milton ‘Ranik’ Jackson took the stage Thursday night performing something most would be ashamed of: his own poetry.
For the next hour and a half, Ranik and several others performed slam poetry to a half-filled auditorium in Watson Theater. The cafe-style poetry slam duo called Poetry to the People took to the stage as a part of the Office of Residence Life’s 10th annual ‘I Have A Dream’ week celebration.
The event’s headliners, composed of Ranik and Kendall ‘Chosen’ Exume, acted in a tag team poetry battle. They induced an open conversation with the audience, standing comfortably in front of the crowd, joking with each other.
The two conversed about relationships, acceptance, their lives and righteousness.
‘They used poems to show issues, to rally for change,’ said Aarin Trombley, a sophomore social work major.
The opening act for the group was Nahri Felder, a sophomore at Union Community College in New Jersey, clad in neon-colored Reebok sneakers.
Standing at the front, Felder took out his Sidekick and read a poem he typed into the device. Following that, he delivered the piece that won him the top prize in an African- American poetry slam sponsored by East Connecticut State University- poetry about race in America, reminiscent of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The duo, which has performed together for three years, began the main event with a statement of power. Some would go as far to say a symbol of black power, like Malcom X. Ranik and Chosen asked everyone in attendance to put a clenched fist in the air and chant ‘poetry to the people.’
The list of topics ranged from love to AIDS, slavery to self-image and democracy to urban life. But the messages are clear: be open-minded, love has no color, stand for what you believe in and speak truth.
Ranik even added his own song, singing ‘We Shall Overcome,’ which was redolent of the Martin Luther King rally where he delivered his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.
After individually delivering several poems, Poetry to the People turned to a more serious subject. After spending time on multiple college campuses, the group spoke directly to an issue plaguing the college population: AIDS. They described the major epidemic through a series of direct and indirect poems.
One in particular had the power to quite the audience with one word. Chosen told the story of a guised sexual encounter with a promiscuous teacher. The character was given grades for his sexual performances: A, Incomplete, D and Satisfactory… AIDS.
After another poem, an open-ended question was posed to the audience: anyone want to share the stage?
Cedric Bolton, program coordinator for Office of Multicultural Affairs, also known as ‘Black Man Preach’ in the poetry world, took the challenge.
‘It was an opportunity to hear some good poetry, something I haven’t seen in Syracuse,’ Bolton said. ‘When given the chance to share my poetry, I did. I’m not afraid to stand in front of a crowd.’
He delivered two poems, one about Hurricane Katrina and the effects of global warming and the other titled ‘Hip Hop Frame.’
‘Their show wasn’t just about Martin Luther King,’ said Jessie Boblick, a sophomore social work and Spanish major. ‘They showed his legacy with what they talked about and by saying, ‘I have a dream for today.”
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