A Poetry Jam which focused on Native American speakers attracted 40 people on Wednesday.
Nwachaukwu Oputa, student coordinator for the center, said she helped bring the event back to encourage students to interact with other cultures.
“I think this a fun and interactive way to showcase these different cultures and introduce students to them,” Oputa said.
Poetry Jam is a student-organized event that allows students and community members to share their poetry in front of a crowd. The event was organized by the Cross Cultural and Gender Center. The center has hosted the event in the past, but Wednesday night’s gathering was the first since last year.
“We wanted to increase cross-cultural interaction. We want students to be able to bring friends from different backgrounds and have them hear things from different cultural perspectives that maybe they haven’t thought of before,” Oputa said.
Oputa and the center plan to host Poetry Jam on the first Wednesday night of every month starting next semester with each event focusing on a different culture.
Miguel Villegas does not attend Fresno State but decided to attend the event after hearing about it from one of his friends. He opened the event with a rap performance.
“I was mostly encouraged to come because tonight was about the natives, and the type of music I like to do is about native struggles,” Villegas said.
Villegas immigrated to Fresno from Mexico when he was 7 years old and is a member of the Mixteco tribe. Villegas said he combines English, Spanish and Mixtecan to perform trilingual rap and share his experiences as a native from Mexico.
“I’ve always wanted to see someone from my community in a music video or on TV talking about our culture,” Villegas said. “I feel like since we didn’t have anyone doing that, I should at least try, and this gave me the chance to come out and share what I do.”
Freshman English major Nohemi Samudio shared a poem she wrote on the Syrian refugee crisis. She said it was her first time sharing her poetry in front of a crowd.
“I was really nervous at first, but once I got into it, I felt glad there was an outlet to let my emotions out about certain subjects,” Samudio said.
Oputa said she hopes future Poetry Jams continue to foster creativity and encourage students to share their perspectives.
“I feel privileged to be able to do this because some of these students share very personal things,” Oputa said. “To be able to make a space where people are able to stand up and share some of their deepest feelings is really reassuring.”