Standing room only in Oscar Ritchie Hall for Open Mic Night

Bryan Wroten

Lacey Lewis, freshman journalism major, reads one of her poems at yesterday’s Open Mic Tour at Oscar Ritchie Hall.

Credit: Jason Hall

Flow with the beat and feel free to dance.

Harambee’s Open Mic Night had standing room only last night in Oscar Ritchie Hall.

Mykka Kee, Harambee president, said the cultural organization tries to give back to Kent State students in an artistic way.

“If you have poetry, or you want to sing, rap, show your art piece or dance – it’s all about self-expression,” she said.

The show is different from other poetry readings, Kee said. With musicians in the background, poets can get up and read to the mood. Audience members can sing along or dance if they like.

The show started with two poems by Mwatabu Okantah, assistant professor of Pan-African Studies and Harambee adviser. He read two poems, “Driving While Black” and “Katrina,” which was about how the effects of Hurricane Katrina brought the suffering of blacks back into the spotlight.

The show also featured spoken-word artist Aaron Epps, or Ace Boogie, as a guest. He and his group performed a mixture of poetry and hip-hop. His special guests were percussionists Elec Simon and Devin Gilbert. Okantah accompanied them on djembe.

“If you came here to see half-naked dancers, you’re at the wrong show,” Epps said “If you came to see a guy driving a Lexus, I have a minivan out back.”

Epps said this show is part of an Open Mic Tour to bring “intimate poetry sets to different coffee shops and universities.”

Not everyone has had the years of experience Epps has. For freshman journalism major Lacey Lewis, this was her first poetry reading in public.

She said her poem, “Black at Kent State,” was about her first experience in her freshmen orientation class. She said having to discuss the book freshmen had to read, “The Color of Water,” was a little uncomfortable because she was the only black girl in the class.

“They weren’t sure what to say because they were afraid of offending me,” she said.

The title of her piece elicited comments like, “I know what that’s like,” from the audience and the line about the hypocrisy of claiming to judge people by personality and not color brought about cheers and laughter.

Contact religion and minority affairs reporter Bryan Wroten at [email protected].