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Poetry performance draws crowd

Fast, loud, poignant words rolled off the tongues of poets at Tuesday night’s poetry slam, “Poetry Off the Page.” Nearly 50 people spent their Tuesday night in the North Commons area in Smith Memorial Center. This marked the third year for this event at Portland State University.

The event was a part of Black History and Heritage Month.

“Black history is everyone’s history and it is every day of every year,” said Turiya Autry, poet and host of “Poetry Off the Page.”

The event featured scheduled poetry performances as well as an opportunity for people to try their poetry skills on the open mike.

“We don’t have too many venues for free speech,” Autry said.

Autry said a reason why she loved hosting “Poetry Off the Page” is watching the growth of the people performing.

Autry left an open invitation to all, that when people were ready to share their words there would be people there to listen.

Some of the scheduled performers were Michael Crenshaw and DJ Jumbo.

“People are here because they want to be here,” Crenshaw said.

Crenshaw is a poet, mc, rapper and a member of the group Hungry Mob. Crenshaw also works with youth in the educational system.

DJ Jumbo, a member of the group Lifsavas, spun some music for the event in addition to performing a piece of poetry.

Crenshaw’s performances dealt with a plethora of social issues.

“Pimps aren’t made, they’re born,” Crenshaw said, “Whoever has control of what we desire is a pimp and we ho ourselves out to get it.”

Crenshaw and the other poets covered a variety of topics.

People like Stasia Brownwell met the open mike challenge. It was Brownwell’s third time in front of an audience.

Justin A. Whitaker joked about his poetry being “on the page.” The response to Whitaker was not a joke, as the audience openly expressed its enthusiasm.

One of Whitaker’s poems dealt with the “random” checks at airports. He explained that he flies out of Portland twice a month and he (along with other people of color) are continuously “randomly” checked.

“In your search for Bin Laden, why you so near to me?” Whitaker said in his poem. The poem was titled “People of Color Caucus.”

Jautaune Hall has attended “Poetry Off the Page” for the last three years. She presented two pieces, one titled “Standing On My Own.”

The event started and finished with Autry’s pieces.

Autry ended the slam with a poem about women being victimized. She recounted a statistic – one out of every four women are victimized before age 20. She then called the estimate inaccurate. Autry says the number is higher.

“Men, ya’ll need to check that shit,” Autry said.

Autry reminded the audience of the importance of showing support for the artists. The event ended with the announcements of various upcoming poetry slams.