Harlem Renaissance Center Hosts Say It Loud Poetry Jam

Cooper Lowell, Contributing Writer

On Friday, February 18 at 8 p.m. the Harlem Renaissance Center hosted two poets, Natasha T. Miller and Black Chakra, for a Say It Loud poetry jam. The Edge Cafe, the venue for the event, was intimately transformed with candle-lit dinner tables and dim lighting. For the students that attended, the event had an intimate feeling that will not be forgotten.

Miller and Black Chakra are both highly accomplished artists. Black Chakra is a spoken word and rap artist with a well-decorated background in competitive slam poetry. During his performance here at Colgate, his skill and experience were on full display. 

Black Chakra started his set with a fast-paced and hard-hitting poem about slave mentality. Directly after that, he flowed into an almost conversational spoken-word piece that was essentially a historical lesson contextualizing his poetry. Without stopping, Chakra transitions into the next poem as if it was a continuation of the first two. The rest of the evening continued this way, giving the sense of one long, never-ending poem.

For the entire performance Chakra never read off of anything. The nearly hour-long act was all memorized.

“I think the poetry night was amazing,” said first-year Sarafina Lewis. “It was not only talking about social justice but different ways to deal with it. Specifically, Black Chakra talked about different forms of protesting whether it was peaceful or violent…he incorporated his life as he went through. He made the audience feel a part of his experience by starting a conversation about different struggles like gun violence, black women and how they’re disrespected, relationships between sons and their black fathers.”

The next poet to perform was Miller. Miller is a poet, LGBTQ+ activist and also has a background in slam poetry. Her achievements are far-reaching, including being featured in Vogue, but her greatest accomplishment here at Colgate was truly connecting with the audience of students that attended the poetry jam.

Before her performance even started, Miller started bantering with some students in the front row. In no time a student was sitting up on stage with her, where she remained throughout the whole performance as her “therapist” and confidant. 

Miller’s poetry was both intimate and relatable, with the poet stopping after every poem to talk to and hear from the audience. 

The connection between the audience and performer throughout the entire night is what elevated this poetry jam into something special. 

At the end of the night, both poets got back onstage for a Q&A. This segment quickly became the poets giving audience members advice and insight about life, blackness, culture and hope. “When I watch a kid lose a stutter after a poetry competition, I have hope in the world,” said Black Chakra. The Q&A lasted nearly 30 minutes as the audience and speaker became enveloped into true discourse on how to live and thrive as Black individuals in today’s world. 

This event was part of an effort to reinvigorate programming for the Harlem Renaissance Center here at Colgate, which has many more events coming up this month, so look forward to even more inspiring events coming to Colgate.