Illini Union Courtyard Cafe to host poetry slam Friday

By Christine Kim

The Illini Union Courtyard Cafe will hold a poetry slam featuring the Welfare Poets and DJ VerACEcious Friday from 9 p.m. to 12 a.m.

There is a $2 admission fee for the general public and free admission for University students.

The poetry slam, which is hosted by Blue Room, an open mic poetry set by La Casa Cultural Latina, will offer an open mic feature and a performance by the Welfare Poets, a group of activists, educators and artists from New York.

The Welfare Poets have traveled over the country for 15 years, teaching workshops, doing poetry readings, and performing music that incorporates Hip Hop, Bomba y Plena, Latin Jazz and others.

“Through artistic expression, whether it’s poetry, art, dance, or music, they convey their world views in a unique manner others can relate to,” said Heidy Valenzuela, junior in LAS and member of La Casa Cultural Latina.

The Blue Room hosts two poetry slams a month, usually at the La Casa building. However, the Illini Union will be holding the first one in November.

“Coordinating with the Illini Union will bring a different crowd,” said Veronica M. Kann, assistant director of La Casa Cultural Latina. “We might get people who wouldn’t think about going to a slam with poets. I think by holding it in the Union, we are widening a potentially larger audience.”

Former University students Teresita Ayala and Cristina Pacione-Zayas founded the Blue Room in 1999. Although it died out last year with no events occurring in the fall, this year Blue Room hosted several poetry slams and are collaborating with other organizations to co-sponsor events.

“We use the Blue Room not only as the events that occur on Fridays, but also as an umbrella for other poetry events that we sponsor or co-sponsor,” Kann said. “It’s important for us to do events with academic units … and student groups.”

Poetry slams provide an aspect of an open mic poetry set, which is different from other performances and events.

“Poetry is a really positive thing,” Kann said. “It’s something students can be a part of. It’s not just about being passive and watching, but being a part of the performance.”

There will be another poetry slam co-sponsored with the Song, Poetry, Expression, Art and Knowledge Caf‚ this month. The first poetry slam of December will be sponsored by Blue Room and is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 2. By scheduling multiple poetry slams, the staff is hoping to draw interest from students all around the campus.

“Poetry slams bring out a mix of people,” said Steven Rosado, junior in LAS and student events programmer for La Casa. “We get to learn about each other’s cultures … have a social awareness across communities. It’s creative and entertaining but artists are talking about issues that a lot of people aren’t aware of in the world.”

There are a total of ten student staff members who aid the La Casa Cultural Latina organization along with students in the organization. For about a year, La Casa has been without a director but is hoping to hire one by the end of the semester. However, even with just one professional staff member and a secretary, events from La Casa have been planned and executed.

Rosado, who sometimes performs at these poetry slams, talks of the different perspectives he has gained by becoming a staff member and attending events.

“The different aspect I get is a feel for each artist’s style,” he said. “You get a sense of what kind of artist each artist is. You know what kind of style and energy they bring.”