“Express Yaself” gives students positive, judgment-free platform

Students Against Social Injustice hosted their second annual “Express Yaself” event on Thursday Feb. 25 in the MacVittie College Union Ballroom. The purpose of “Express Yaself” is to get students talking about social injustices they’ve experienced in their lives and in media through creative expression. It’s an event focused on both education and fun, with students presenting their own poetic pieces and songs. At the beginning of the night, the SASI executive board made it known that they wanted everyone to feel comfortable—there would be warnings for poems and songs including socially offensive words. They emphasized the notion that the event was a no-judgment space and that participants could temporarily leave if they became uncomfortable.

During the event, students performed songs and slam poetry on the subject of social injustice beginning with a wonderful rendition of “Oh Freedom” by juniors Sandi Imayeguahi and Krystal Osei. Together, Imayeguahi and Osei are the Dynamic Duo—a jazz, R&B and gospel singing group.

Crowd favorite Andre Doeman ‘15—who is originally from the Caribbean—performed a slam poem entitled “Loaded Gun, Six Rounds.” Doeman noted that he was surprised at what he has seen in terms of race relations since living in the United States. The poem revolved around racial inequalities, with an emphasis on statistics and the power of education to change them. Using phrases such as “open hearts, open minds” and “pierce the mentality,” Doeman’s poem was extremely well-received by the room.

Other issues such as feminism and body acceptance were also big themes of the night. Junior Pam Haas’ “The New Beholder” was a beautifully personal slam poem describing how “scars become stories instead of flaws,” while freshman Alexa Rosario impressed the crowd with her bold “Untitled,” described as “a poem about girls trying to find love the wrong way.”

Rochester-based artist Shawn Dunwoody was the guest of the night, providing attendees with a hands-on visual experience. Dunwoody specializes in public artwork—particularly mural work and communal art—which focuses on how we can empower using words.

Dunwoody gave a talk on campus centered on graffiti art on Feb. 23. Drawing inspiration from his presentation, Dunwoody worked on a large-scale painting of a spray can during “Express Yaself.” He invited attendees to use paint markers to embellish the painting with words that they personally associate with social injustice and making a change. Students seemed eager to add their own personal touch to the work with words such as “awareness,” “speak,” “stand up” and “human.”

During the intermission, attendees mingled in the ballroom and visited with the handful of student-run clubs who were tabling at the event. Groups like Women’s Action Coalition, Geneseo Pride Alliance, Black Student Union and Environmental Impacts provided students with information and support throughout the evening.

After the intermission, there was a second round of performances. Sophomore William Antonelli performed his slam poetry piece “Glass Slipper Ceiling,” giving a creative reinterpretation of the classic “Cinderella” fairytale. The piece reworked the idealistic narrative by including current social themes such as feminism and LQBTQ+ acceptance. With a defiant and independent heroine and a prince fighting his own sexual orientation, Antonelli successfully makes “Cinderella” accessible to today’s audiences.

Altogether, the night was a remarkably positive one. As a relatively new organization on campus, SASI should be commended for not only addressing social issues in Geneseo, but also for providing an inviting platform for students to have their voices heard.