The Student Promoted Access Center for Education and Services, or SPACES, hosted “Masterpiece in Progress: A Night of Poetry and Activism” last Wednesday. The spoken word event consisted of student performances and a final performance by one of the nation’s most recognized spoken word artists, Rudy Francisco.
Lost in a sea of post-inaugural blues, student artists expressed their concerns, frustrations, and grievances while creating an overall atmosphere of comfortable unity.
After several brave souls from UCSD performed, the highly anticipated Rudy Francisco came on stage and blessed us with his charismatic personality and melodic spoken word pieces. Using poetry as his medium for transportation of thought, Francisco touched upon themes of love, race-relations, identity, gender, and religion.
“Scars,” one of his most well known pieces, excited the crowd and set the bar high for the rest of his performance. Taking the structure of two lists, “Scars” transforms two inevitable components of a break-up, anger and longing, into an art form. He cries, “There is nothing rational about love / Your love stutters when it gets nervous / Your love trips over its own shoelaces / Love is clumsy, and my heart refuses to wear a helmet.” As Francisco speaks of his ex-girlfriend and their lost love, he painfully admits, “Loving you was the last thing I felt really good at.”
As the night went on, Francisco performed a medley of his poems: “My Honest Poem,” “Complainers,” “A Lot Like You,” and more. While sharing short stories in between poetry pieces, we got to hear the background of much of his work. One piece that needed no introduction was “Adrenaline Rush,” which describes the constant terror that comes of being black in America. He makes a crushing statement: “Jim Crow may have left the nest, but our streets are still covered in its feathers.”
Francisco then continued on to perform “Your God,” a powerful piece inspired by a stranger holding a homophobic poster. Francisco calls out this stranger by saying he must have “racial slurs tattooed to his tongue just to make intolerance more comfortable in his mouth,” and then ingeniously ends his poem with, “So next time you bend your knees, next time you bow your head, I want you tell your God my God is looking for him.”
SPACES aims to provide equal access to higher education for K-12 students and promote undergraduate retention and graduation. Specifically targeting students of historically disadvantaged or underrepresented backgrounds, SPACES acts as a resource for current and prospective UCSD students.
Brenda Alvarez, Co-Coordinator of Campus Diversity Engagement, states that her job includes (but is not limited to) “giving tours to primary and secondary school students, speaking about the activism history on this campus, and telling our stories as college students of color.”
Whether it be local news of the UC tuition hike or the grander announcement of new federal immigration laws, there has never been a more crucial time for an organization like SPACES to advocate all they do for students on campus. As marginalized communities continue to face oppression on a national scale, it is essential for all students to feel safe and welcome here on our campus.
But there are times to speak up and there are times to listen.
“My co-coordinator and I wanted to have a program for the retention of our community where we could listen to each other and try to unify ourselves more. It was important for us to have Rudy Francisco specifically because people of color don’t often get the spotlight here at UCSD,” said Alvarez.
“Masterpiece in Progress” provided not only an opportunity for students to express themselves in a creative way, but to listen to others’ personal struggles. With much of Francisco’s work integrating identities of race, gender, and religion in America, Francisco placed us all at the intersection of art and social consciousness — a comfortable type of discomfort that ultimately waters the very seeds of our resistance.
For more information about SPACES, visit their website at http://spaces.ucsd.edu/ or stop by their office on the second floor of Price Center. Rudy Francisco is a spoken word poet from San Diego, California. You can find more of his work here.
Ana Magallanes is the editor of Arts and Entertainment for The Triton. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.