Sunday’s “With All That I Am” open mic night for poets, storytellers and musicians aimed to provide University of Michigan students a space to perform and raise awareness about diversity and inclusion on campus.
Music, Theatre & Dance freshman Mason Reeves performed four original poems. He said the recent political climate in the wake of President-elect Donald Trump’s win encouraged him to produce more of his own works.
“I’ve been inspired a lot to create, and I think the only way for me to get better at creating to the point where I can get people to listen is to at least try it out and keep performing,” he said.
Music, Theatre & Dance freshman Liam Allen said he thought this was an important venue for students to come together.
“I think a lot of the time people need an outlet, a space to feel that they are able to express themselves and have it be OK,” he said.
Allen performed an original song with his own guitar accompaniment.
“When you can look into the eyes of the person performing, it’s a different way you can connect to it — it’s much more intimate,” he said.
The event was hosted by MOSAIC: Intercultural Performance Ensemble, a student organization dedicated to creating live art to increase diversity and representation on campus.
Music, Theatre & Dance senior Aline Mayagoitia, the creative director of MOSAIC, said the event was an opportunity for students to express their thoughts on important issues in a way that is not normally facilitated at the University.
“We are a presenting organization, so we usually couple with student theater or other organizations to make pieces that have either a cast or creative team or a voice that is usually not represented in other organizations on campus,” she said.
Mayagoitia said this was the first non-theater performance MOSAIC has hosted, with students presenting original works from poems to songs, as well as reenacting excerpts from plays and other performances they have been a part of.
“Identity is so much more complicated than what our binary systems want us to believe it is, and I think a really good way to express complicated things is through art and through poetry, music and storytelling,” Mayagoitia said. “Today is about us, as artists, as poets, as people, expressing our own words.”
During the event, Mayagoitia spoke about recent campus events, including student protests in the Ann Arbor community, saying this open mic night aimed to create a safe space for underrepresented students to speak up.
“We think we’re understanding and we think we’re so open and yet, there are still crimes that are happening at our doorstep, and still a lot of hate that we need to combat with expressing ourselves and plainly saying who we are,” she said. “That’s where the title came from.”
Elyakeem Avraham, a junior in LSA and Music, Theatre & Dance and the associate director MOSAIC, said he hoped the event would widen the lens and perception of audience members so they could leave with an open mind about different identities.
“I really want them to be able to know that there are ways to articulate, understand and educate yourselves about other identities that people hold,” he said.
The open mic included excerpts from “For Colored Girls,” a show directed by Avraham and set to be performed on Central Campus this February.
“It’s the coming-of-age story about everybody’s personal identities and everything they hold within,” Avraham said. “A lot of times the media perpetrates or stereotypes people for a lot of things that can cascade over their whole ethnicity or race, religion or sexual orientation. With All That I Am is basically that personalization and humanization of people individually, and that’s what our community is hungry for and needs.”
Reeves and Allen said these kind of events are particularly important for students today and they hope to continue working with MOSAIC to perform self-produced work and audition for larger campus productions.
“I think that a lot of times when people are having casual conversation they can put up a blockage and there can be a kind of force field around them so you can’t intuitively see through them,” Avraham said. “But the interesting thing that a performance does is that it gives people that time capsule, that blank space to be a canvas and to create and allow people to really see their true colors. I think live performance has a way to interpret what we feel in actual life that we can’t say in everyday conversation because it isn’t in our casual dialogue to do so.”