Hopkins hosted “The Power of Words,” an event featuring spoken word artists, poets and activists, on April 8 in Hodson Hall. Many of the 12 performers were from the Baltimore community, and others were Hopkins students.
The emcee for the night was Kenneth Morrison, the executive director of Dew More Baltimore, an organization dedicated to using art and community organizing to increase community and civic engagement in the city. The group hosts a number of arts and poetry programs and competitions throughout the year.
Morrison brought a heightened energy to the event and set an open-minded, interactive mood from the beginning.
“The poet lives off your energy,” he said.
Before the performances began, he outlined the rules of the night, which mostly consisted of the different reactions that were acceptable and encouraged as well as general requests for respectful behavior.
Morrison then kicked off the event by reciting a poem of his own titled “Rape Poem.” The poem was his response to a woman who told him she thought poems about rape were cliché. He recognized what it means to deny another woman the right and creative freedom to write a poem about how she has been affected by rape.
As Morrison read the poem, his words felt directed and specific. It became apparent during his reading that audience participation at the event would facilitate a strong emotional response from the crowd.
The performances that followed were mainly poetry readings from Hopkins students. Based on the tone set by Morisson, it seemed like the poets felt comfortable in the space.
Throughout the night, the poems were raw and honest. They touched on topics ranging from sexual abuse to interracial families to contaminated water at Baltimore public schools.
Two performers in the middle of the group used different modes of expression in their performances. The first was Eruption, a step dance team from the Baltimore community. The group used their hands on their whole bodies to create rhythm and dance. The energy of the dancers, who were clearly having fun, helped to lighten the mood among audience members.
The second performer to bring a unique performance style was a rapper, junior Harry Burr who presented a rap with musical accompaniment about how “people say they want to hear the truth.” After his performance ended, he mentioned that it was his first time performing. This came as a surprise to many audience members since his presence seemed comfortable and natural.
Other performers included sophomore Hannah Cowley, who spoke about issues of distance, and junior Piper Sheren, a former Dew More Baltimore poetry champion.
Dew More Baltimore will host a number of events throughout the rest of 2016. On April 16, they will host an event titled Louder Than a Bomb, a series of performances from local middle school and high school students in the Gateway Building of the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA).
The Louder than a Bomb program is a chapter of a national youth poetry slam festival that serves over 100,000 students nationwide. In Baltimore, the program seeks to engage youth in middle schools, high schools and churches in the “power of poetry.” According to Dew More’s website, young poets receive monthly dynamic writing and performance workshops from acclaimed artists that exposes them to complex concepts, advanced vocabulary and critical analysis.
Another program sponsored by the organization is Speak Out, a televised youth poetry competition that highlights Baltimore’s premiere youth poets.