An Evening at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe

 

By Allison Yeh

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Last Friday at 10 o’clock in the evening, I joined my Spanish class in line outside the Nuyorican Poet’s Café on East 3rd between Avenue B and Avenue C. We huddled outside in the cold speaking a mix of English and elementary Spanish. Our teacher, in a black fur coat and boots, whipped a takeout box of French fries from her purse. “No tuvo tiempo para comer, queraís, alguién?” She said as she circled the box under our noses to entice us. I took one since I didn’t have time to eat either.

Inside the café, we were squished into a small box-like space, every inch taken up by a person in a puffy winter coat. It was uncomfortable, yet strangely comforting, knowing so many people had come together to watch the power of words be delivered. Our class split up, weaving our way through bodies towards the tiny stage. I stood on my tip toes, ready for the performance to begin.

The event we were attending was a poetry slam. However, to start the evening, a more well-known poet, Carlos Andrés Gómez, author of Man Up: Cracking the Code of Modern Manhood  came on stage to warm up the crowd with two poems. Gomez’s stage presence and delivery gave me the same chills I get when I hear a singer on the the Voice belting their lungs out (in all the best ways). His second poem, “What’s Genocide” hushed the audience like a graveyard. Once he finished, the crowd hollered, applauded and rushed to get in line for an autographed book.

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The poetry slam itself was also inspiring. Three contestants each spoke from their own diverse backgrounds. One spoke of her experience as a black woman in a small town in North Carolina. One young man spoke of his Jewish heritage and his abhorrence of Hebrew school. The last participant (and ultimate winner of the slam) was of Dominican descent and spoke about his working as a public school teacher in Manhattan. The three performers each shared three poems that even though ranged in content, could be connected through the potency of their verbal communication. The poems were not only lyrical, but also advocated for something beyond the brick walls of the space.

To close the night, Whitney Greenaway (an award winning slam poet) recited a poem about how to be a lady, inspired by Jamaica Kincaid’s Girl. Earlier in the night she also performed this.

While the event ended at 2am, probably the longest and latest Spanish class I have ever attended, I left with a new sense of community, a sense of power of words, and a want to look up more slam poetry on Youtube.

 

Allison is a Sophomore at Barnard and Lead Features Editor of Barnard Bite.

 

pictureS:

http://www.nuyorican.org/

 

http://www.nuyorican.org/

Megachurch in Manhattan

By Ruby Samuels

Have you ever wanted to go to a Sunday mass off campus? Feel too awkward to visit a congregation that you aren’t part of and don’t intend to join? Maybe you aren’t even Christian. I’m certainly not. I was raised on the upper west side of Manhattan, infamous home to the Seinfeld jew. But And yet, I’ve always been curious about what Sunday mass is like. I I never had a real preference for what sort of mass I wanted to attend, whether it’s the kind of beautiful black gospel that Elvis claimed and crowned himself with, or the European type of service that I’ve only seen depicted in movies like Chocolat.

This past Sunday, at 3 in the afternoon, I finally found a mass to attend. I felt a bit awkward going in my beanie and flannel- as though people would say, “look at that secular Jewish girl let loose by herself in a church”- but when I arrived at the church doors I blended in.

In fact, I was more dressed up than many amidst the throngs of people waiting to enter. The sidewalk outside the Manhattan Center where the service would be held looked more like the line outside Stephen Colbert’s Late Show than a church. That’s because this was Hillsong Church, the pop music, purple disco lit, Evangelical megachurch of Manhattan.  

Hillsong’s website must be on some social media intern’s Pinterest board. There are faded Instagram-esque pictures of rock music stages, modern amplified cursive, advertisements for indie rock music records and books, plus several social media links. Hillsong was founded in 1998 in Sydney, Australia by Brian and Bobbie Houston, a couple who believe in Evangelical and Pentacostal Christianity. I was there to do research on a paper about the use of media in religion, so the blonde Australian models singing about Jesus’s blood on a stage that could be mistaken for any major pop music venue was perfect for me. Standing every ten feet were “hosts” dressed in all black, smiling enthusiastically and holding trays full of gold-foil wrapped chocolate eggs. The sermon was delivered by an Australian man with tattoo sleeves, plenty of alcohol-related joked and an African American partner who seemed to be there for to laugh, look very cool and bring diversity points to the Church admin.

To be standing amidst balconies full of people swaying and singing along to the Christian indie-rock was something else. There was an ongoing music video, projected onto a giant screen behind the stage, of guitars, rock-concert stages nature scenes and subtitles so that everyone could participate. At one point, the music video was interrupted with pictures of last year’s “Prom Remix” which is a major fundraising and community building event that happens every February (if you are interested in attending, this year’s Prom is on February 10th and tickets are $10 each).

 

After Heidi Klum and Chris Martin doppelgangers finished their indie Christian rock concert, a tattooed pastor told a story about his five year old son offering a quarter to his doctor after a regular check up, as a way of instilling moral common sense of giving and reciprocity in the congregation before asking the hosts to “pass those containers around.” He wasn’t what I expected from a pastor, and I realize that he is most likely not a pastor that most of my Christian friends and acquaintances would be familiar with either. He made jokes about day-drinking and references to rap songs. He seemed to be entertaining the congregation first and preaching second. However, he could be appealing to a young Christian population that might not otherwise practice their faith because of outdated church services that cannot compete with modern digital devices and entertainment venues. In any case, Hillsong Church is clearly drawing large crowds of diverse people who are happy and excited to be participating in their own form of modern, media-centric Christianity.

If you are curious, go to 311 W 34th St, New York, NY 10001 on any Sunday at 10am, 12 pm, or 3 pm.

Ruby Samuels is a junior at Barnard and Editor for Barnard Bite

 

 

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CHECK OUT There is Hope Gala 2017: The Dreams of Our Ancestors THIS FRIDAY

The Caribbean Students Association will be hosting their 9th annual There is Hope Gala this Friday, February 17th in Roone Auditorium from 8-12 pm.

Each year, the Caribbean Students Association hosts a fundraising gala to sponsor their There is Hope Campaign: an annual service trip to a Caribbean Island. This year, all funds will go to supporting the Caribbean Students Association as they embark on their trip to Jamaica to teach primary students the importance of self-love and black identity. The event will feature vendors, performances, food and a THC film. Tickets are only $5 and all proceeds will go towards supporting a good cause, so be sure to check it out!

For more information on the There is Hope Campaign, check out the Caribbean Students Association’s Website: http://www.columbia.edu/cu/carib/

Sinead Hunt is a first-year at Barnard and Club Liaison for Barnard Bite. If you or your group would like to be featured on the blog’s “On Campus” section, please contact snh2134@barnard.edu

Leave the Library and Dance for Free in NYC

By Ruby Samuels

One of the gifts of New York City is the ability to escape your personal worried world. Just by leaving the library you can lose yourself, often just for the cost of subway fare, into another world for the afternoon.

As a Columbia University student, you might pass by people of a dozen different nationalities, professions and political opinions on every blustery morning that you make your way to class, coffee in hand, back braced against pack. Perhaps you live off campus in Spanish Harlem or even Queens, where there are immigrants who make you feel, with their languages and food and sidewalk expressions of life, as though you are in another part of the world. But do you really experience those people and the knowledge that they have to offer? No matter where you live or who you are, I still think that you should take advantage of the free trial multi-cultural dance classes that are offered by studios all over New York City. If not for the cultural experience, then for the mental and physical therapy that every student at Columbia University needs. Read More »