Spoken word artist Shanelle Gabriel headlines poetry slam

Black Student Union has had an interest in organizing a poetry slam since November 2012, and once Student Programming Board expressed similar desires, the two organizations decided to work together to coordinate Trinity’s first annual Poetry Slam to be held at 8 p.m. today, Feb. 22, in the Skyline Room.

“Last year, late November, I was planning events for Black History Month as part of my responsibilities as vice president of Black Student Union. I like to try new things, so I thought that it could be something different to add to the events for Black History Month,” said Breanna Willis, vice president of BSU.

Willis spoke with Yemi Idowu, who is both president of SPB and an active member of BSU, about the idea, and the planning process began.

“Yemi said that it would be a great idea, and that she knew of a spoken word artist, Shanelle Gabriel, from a conference she attended for SPB, who would be perfect for the program,” Willis said.

SPB and BSU brought Trinity Diversity Connection into planning for the event, and TDC provided the bulk of the funding for the event, although SPB contributed where possible. TDC and SPB made the final decision about the featured artist for the event, and Shanelle Gabriel was selected. Willis and sophomore Deborah Kilpatrick, associate concert director for SPB, headed up the organization of the event together.

“Every year, some of SPB goes to NACA, which is a conference where other college programming boards from around the state gather to watch hundreds of different acts to bring to their campuses. Shanelle Gabriel was one of the showcased spoken word artists and we completely fell in love with her. When she performed her poem “˜Why I Love You’ there, we knew we had to bring her to campus,” Kilpatrick said.

Gabriel is also an advocate for Lupus awareness and focuses a lot of her poetry on the disease. SPB found her attractive because of her honest poetry and advocacy of Lupus awareness and because she is well known in the spoken word community.

“Shanelle Gabriel is really well known in the spoken-word community. She was featured on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam as well as in a promo for the 2007 NFL draft. If you don’t know anything about spoken word, Shanelle would be the one to make you “˜get it.’ We are incredibly fortunate to have her come to Trinity,” Kilpatrick said.

Initially, SPB was going to pay for Gabriel to come to campus and for some of the advertising for the event, while BSU requested funding from the Association of Student Representatives for the rest of the expenses. However, after Willis talked to Soisouda Inthavong, BSU’s advisor and Trinity’s coordinator for diversity and intercultural relations, Inthavong informed Willis that TDC has an annual allotment of funds set aside for a multicultural event.

“Trinity Diversity Connection has money allocated to put on a big event each semester and, this year, they started the idea of having three organizations co-plan the events, and it was a coincidence that this semester, BSU is one of the organizations that was selected to plan it,” Willis said.

It was SPB’s responsibility to handle the logistics of bringing Gabriel to campus, including contacting the artist and her manager, getting contracts prepared, and creating advertisements. TDC was responsible for the majority of the funding. BSU is responsible for getting rooms reserved on campus, working with TUPD to provide security for the event, and completing necessary paperwork for the provision of food, alcohol and a bartender for the event.

“Bringing this event to Trinity was something I envisioned as a closing event for BSU’s celebration of Black History Month,” Willis said. “I also thought it would be a nice way to bring together the [chapters of] Black Student Union from other nearby schools, like UTSA, OLLU and UIW.”

“I am most looking forward to how our event will pay off.  Deborah and I have spent so much time in planning this event that we want a big turnout.  Since we’re including students from the greater community in the performance, we hope that it encourages others to want to perform next time we do this event and becomes a big event that everyone looks forward to at Trinity University,” Willis said.

Kilpatrick shares similar sentiments about the entire process, and she is also excited about the potential of the poetry slam becoming an annual part of Trinity’s celebration of Black History Month.

“We hope that this event will be one of the major events Trinity students attend during Black History Month. It’s really cool that SPB was able to work with TDC to produce this event, and I hope this means we can collaborate with other groups on campus to put on other events,” Kilpatrick said.

Idowu, president of SPB, looks forward to what the collaboration with TDC and BSU could mean for the future.

“I’m excited that SPB is trying new things this year such as hosting the Poetry Slam and collaborating with BSU. It was a fun way to get another organization involved and to allow talented students to participate” Idowu said. “I can’t wait to see the amazing talent on stage this weekend.”