Students overcome adversity together at Poetry for Personal Power

On Tuesday, April 5, students and community members gathered together in Jazzman’s Café in the Student Union for Poetry for Personal Power.

The event featured live musical performances and poetry readings.

“We invite you to open up as far as you can go, and now let’s start the show…” sang the featured performer, Sara “Miss Conception” Glass.  Glass is a well-known poet songwriter, who frequently performs at different venues in the Kansas City area and at Fresh Ink events in Lawrence, Kan.

An impressive number of UMKC organizations came out in support of the performers, including UMKC Student Veterans Organization, the Writing Center, the Counseling Center, NAACP Student Chapter, the African-American Student Union and the Undergraduate English Council.

“The main idea of this program is that people can use wellness tools such as exercise, spirituality, mindfulness, volunteering, gardening or, of course, poetry to get through tough times in their lives,” reads Poetry for Personal Power’s website, www.poetryforpersonalpower.com. “We are gathering stories and poems about what people do in positive ways that helps them build friendships and feel better.”

The remarkable woman and story behind the event was Corinna West. West served as the Master of Ceremonies and kicked off the event by sharing her own personal story and some of her poetry with audience members.

“I’m a person with mental illness,” West said. “I’ve been diagnosed with up to 12 things and that just shows how medical diagnosis can’t do everything. People can find strength in different ways and not just through medications.”

West received a grant to hold 10 Poetry for Personal Power open-mic events at universities throughout Missouri.  She said she loves what she does and she hopes others will benefit as much from these events as she has.

Because April is National Poetry Month, the event was perfect for UMKC students interested in poetry, artistic expression and coming to terms with life’s inevitable difficulties.

The first participant was a woman who spoke out against Islamic patriarchy and how Muslim men abuse and marginalize women and children.  She shouted out her pain, and even took off her hijab, a head covering worn by Islamic women.

Another participant delivered a poem titled, “Weed,” which spoke out against illegal drug culture. The poem likened illegal drug culture to white patriarchy, and its effects on poor, marginalized communities.

Rob Herron, a regular participant at Undergraduate English Council Open-Mic Nights, performed at Poetry for Personal Power and blew the crowd away with his poem, “Warrior Generation,” which expressed his feelings towards overcoming “social bondage” and “social conditioning.”

UMKC psychology student Lauren Buscher described the event as “a pressure free space to share poetry.”

“I like how UMKC is moving toward holding more trendy urban events that bring to light issues on a global scale,” Busher said.

The organization makes appearances at First Fridays in the Crossroads District downtown.

To learn more about Poetry for Personal Power and for information on upcoming events and videos of poetry performances, visit www.poetryforpersonalpower.com.

jhoermann@unews.com

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