There are few things more electrifying than sitting in on a live poetry reading. One would think that sharing poetry in an online format would dull the experience, but that was not the case on the evening of October 14th, as Siena’s Latinx Student Association and the Damietta Cross-Cultural Center extended a virtual welcome to the Adios America team, Melania-Luisa Marte and Angélica Maria Aguilera.
The poetry duo hosted events for two nights in a row, each of them encouraging reflection and creativity. On Wednesday evening, the duo shared a powerful poetry reading performance and on Thursday evening, they organized an interactive poetry workshop for students and professors alike.
Through the medium of poetry, Angélica Maria and Melania-Luisa addressed themes of allyship, racial justice, microaggressions, the exoticization of women, and the necessity of decolonizing literature. One poem that was especially powerful had to do with rethinking the power and influence that modern literature has granted William Shakespeare. One of Angélica Maria Aguilera’s iconic lines was, “Methinks it’s time to flip the script, Shakespeare”. Looking at canonical literature through this lens, it is clear to see that there is a lack of representation in the work that is deemed “classic”. These works continue to be required readings for many literature and writing courses however, with all due respect, they don’t hold a candle to topics that are important to explore and discuss in the year 2020.
During Thursday night’s event, Angélica Maria and Melania-Luisa addressed topics including common microaggressions, how rest is a form of resistance, and guided their virtual audience through a series of writing prompts centering around identity. Participants started a conversation about beauty politics, anti-racism work both on and off campus, exotification, racialization, and their personal experiences either witnessing or receiving microaggressions in their lives.
Another powerful moment of the evening came through a small meditation, where Melania-Luisa invited those tuned in on Zoom to visualize their happy place and write down where they found it, what was in it, what they felt, what they saw etc. The Poet then encouraged viewers to think of how one’s community would navigate this space. Is there room for collectivity? Is there visibility and celebration of our individuality and differences? These thinking points resonated with the audience, who engaged in discussion following this reflection activity.
While asking essential questions regarding anti-racism work both inside and outside one’s immediate locality, Angélica Maria and Melania-Luisa stressed the importance of community and collectivity in this work. Melania-Luisa stating that, “We need community. Our ancestors survived through their connections to community and collectivity”. As students seeking to carry forward the Siena’s intentions of diversity, optimism, respect and service, these words could not be more crucial. There is power in numbers; Siena Saints host the intention, dedication, and commitment to service that is necessary to enact sustainable change.
In times as unprecedented as these, the Siena Community is stronger together. We must respect, serve, care, and share compassion for those around us now and always – it’s ours to do along the road to restorative justice and peace for all.