Performers end Black History Month poetically

Katie Reineke

Obie award-winning actor and playwright Daniel Beaty offered words of inspiration on Saturday to students who attended USI’s Poetic Rhythm event.

“No matter what shows up in your life, no matter what you may have dealt with in the past, no matter what you may be going through in this moment, you have the power to choose who you will be and what you will make your life to be,” he said.

“As an artist, as a poet, as an actor, as a singer, my goal is to inspire people to transform pain into power … and transform it into something that can be powerful for yourself and for other people.”

The HBO Def Jam Poetry performer’s appearance was only the latest in a series of Black History Month celebrations hosted by USI.

In addition to host Kendrick “Mississippi Phat” Vivians, performers included USI health services/administration major Ashlea Gantt, Student Activity Advisor Kathy Jones, The Stockwell Elementary School Steppers and USI students Day-Eli and Lawrnetta Stacker, who read poetry.

Gantt opened with the Black National Anthem.

Beaty then performed a collection of poems about overcoming the hardships in his past.

He concluded with a scene from his critically acclaimed off-Broadway solo play “Emergency,” in which a slave ship emerges before the Statue of Liberty in New York City before 40 characters, all of them played by Beaty himself.

“I ask you,” Beaty said, “what stands in front of your freedom?”

The second half of Poetic Rhythm entitled “Expression Through Step” included a “unity stroll” during which the “Divine Nine” National Pan-Hellenic Council performed.

Visiting from Ball State University, the council is a collection of historically black Greek-Letter organizations.

Representing the “Divine Nine” were Delta Sigma Theta from Murray State University and Omega Psi Phi of Mississippi State University.

“I enjoyed all of the sororities,” said medical assisting major Tiara Johnson, a visitor from Ivy Tech.

“I think that a lot of people want to pledge, but USI doesn’t have them here … if they get a Divine Nine chapter here, I would definitely consider transferring from Ivy Tech to USI.”

Although USI currently does not recognize any “Divine Nine” organizations, Kappa Alpha Psi, a USI fraternity, has been authorized to conduct information sessions to seek membership, said David Stetter, Student Development’s program advisor for Greek life and leadership.

It is not a requirement for students to be African-American to join a “Divine Nine” sorority or fraternity, though these organizations are often heavily influenced by African-American culture, Stetter said.