September 29, 2016

‘One world, many stories’

Webster students Bryce Goodloe and Brianna Brown performed for the first time at the spoken word open mic during I-Fest 2016.

Goodloe usually performs as an actor, but this was his first time performing spoken word poetry.

“I have always found it interesting. I mean something I have never done before,” Goodloe said.

Brown, on the other hand, is not comfortable being in front of the crowd. She got encouragement from her friend Goodloe and Kane Smego, a spoken word poet and hip-hop artist who was invited to lead a workshop before the event and also perform during I-Fest.

“Performing what you write sometimes can be hard, but when you have encouragement, it makes you more willing to try,” Brown said.

I-Fest is an annual event at Webster University. The Multicultural Center and International Student Affairs (MCISA) hosted the event. The event provided traditional food from more than 20 countries. A photo booth was installed for participants to mark the occasion.

The theme of I-Fest 2016 was “one world, many stories.” The four-hour long event on April 15 highlighted the importance of storytelling and self-expression in the formation of culture and identity.

I-Fest featured performances from storyteller Oba William King, spoken word poet Kealoha, filmmaker Eliaichi Kimaro and spoken word poet Smego.

Smego came to Webster earlier this year for a Black History Month event in February. Smego shared his stories at I-Fest about his life growing up in a multiracial household, including issues like immigration reform, racism and xenophobia that affected his community.

“One thing I loved about open mic is that by exchanging stories you get to find out our differences and our similarities, and that you are not alone,” Smego said.

Smego designed his afternoon workshop focusing on writing and storytelling, but not about specific performance techniques. He said he wanted the performances to be just “the roar from the soul.”

Goodloe performed a poem that he wrote in the workshop about being “the smartest in class” as an African-American.

“Do your homework every night. When your teacher expects you not to have it, you are denying him or her that satisfaction trying to prove a stereotype true,” Goodloe said.

After sharing on stage, Goodloe said positive feedback from the audience encouraged him because he felt they know him better.

“People are very complex, and so when it comes to individual stories, there are so many small facts that make you who you are and sharing one part of that story helps a person to understand, besides ‘OK, I am from Memphis,’ but what goes into that,” Goodloe said.

Brown’s story focused on living by herself rather than with her family.

“If you are under 10 years old and you are crying at the airport when you are leaving your parents, the flight attendants will probably move up your seat class and give you cookies,” Brown said. “Don’t feel like you have to give up your home just because you moved away. Don’t forget that you are loved.”

Brown said that although one poem can only express a piece of herself, she still felt that sharing helped her build connections with others.

Smego said the power of spoken word poetry is that sharing a story can change people’s theoretical ideas or even the stereotypes of what people think a person is.

“The shortest distance between two people is a story,” Smego said. “The power lies in learning how to tell a story and learning how to listen to stories from others and respect everyone’s contribution.”

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