Students share spoken word at SPB’s Open Mic Night

Oakland University’s Student Program Board (SPB) hosted a Spoken Word Open Mic Night in the Gold Rooms of the Oakland Center on Oct. 6 from 7-9 p.m. Katie Kramer, a notable poet and social justice activist, was welcomed to the OU community as the host for the event.

Christian Udeozor-Nweke, SPB’s creative director, began the event by introducing Katie Kramer as the host of the night. Udeozor-Nweke also reminded students about SPB’s upcoming Silent Disco Night and encouraged attendees to help themselves to the complimentary drinks and desserts provided by SPB.

Kramer took the mic next and asked the audience to participate in an act she called the “Great Migration,” encouraging individuals sitting near the back of the room to move to tables closer to the stage. She explained that the purpose of the “Great Migration” was to create a more inclusive, intimate atmosphere for all individuals, especially those who decided to perform.

Once everyone was settled in their seats, Kramer welcomed everyone to the event and introduced herself. Kramer told students that she was a dedicated activist and a queer woman, bringing her personal experiences and identities into her poetry.

After speaking about her extensive experience traveling and performing spoken word, Kramer reminded students that anyone with any level of experience could perform. She encouraged students to step outside of their comfort zone for the night and read their poetry or share personal stories on stage.

To break the ice, Kramer shared a poem of her own. The topic of her spoken word was her grandmother, whom she conflicts with ideologically, but loves regardless.

“One Christmas, I received a card from my grandmother that included my female partner’s name beside mine,” Kramer said. “Grandma, when was it that you learned to stop flinching in the rain?”

After sharing her heartfelt poem, Kramer shared some of her experiences when performing her spoken word to the public. She explained that individuals tend to throw items onto stage as a sign of respect to the performer.

“During a show, I was in the middle of my first poem, and I heard a thud on stage,” Kramer said. “It was a woman’s prosthetic leg!”

Kramer also shared her tumultuous high school experiences in a poem that highlighted several of her biggest childhood memories. She told attendees that her past experiences, especially the negative ones, impacted her greatly as a person and influence her current writings.

For the rest of the night, Kramer passed the microphone to various student volunteers. Some chose to retell personal stories, while others decided to share their own poetry.

Many students expressed that they were nervous to engage in public speaking, worrying that they would perform badly or stutter their words. However, after each participant completed their piece, they walked off stage with a newfound confidence. 

“I had never been to a spoken word night before, so it was a really exciting experience,” OU junior Katie Pugh said. “I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised to hear all the amazing poems my peers had prepared.”

Kramer’s goal of the night was to give students the opportunity to express themselves free of judgment. Given that each attendee walked out of the event with a beaming smile, it was clear she achieved what she had intended.