At the 2017 National Association for Campus Activities (NACA) convention, Aissatou Thiaw, ‘20, Director of Awareness and Diversity for the Student Government Association (SGA) and Programs Board searched for possible events to host on campus this semester. So far as a result of the conference, spoken word artist Andrea Gibson and comedian Subhah Agarwal have performed at St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM).
Gibson’s poetry discusses issues including gender and sexuality struggles, politics and social reform. They performed in Cole Cinema on Jan. 24 as part of their Hey Galaxy tour.
Thiaw states that as the Director of Awareness and Diversity for the SGA and Programs Board, it is her job to bring in events to help our school move toward a more inclusive environment and to raise the issues that are harder to talk about.
“When we think of diversity we usually think of one thing, but there are so many facets to it — gender roles, sexuality, race — the fact that we can bring in people who showcase these things helps. My ultimate goal with this is to make our campus more friendly, accepting, more aware and ready for the real world,” said Aissatou of the event.
Gibson opened their set by thanking students for attending, noting that the peaceful college atmosphere was “refreshing” after tour stops in bars and clubs.
The first piece they performed was a love poem entitled “Maybe I Need You.” Then Gibson moved to social commentary pieces like “To the Men Catcalling My Girlfriend as I’m Walking Beside Her” and “Photoshopping my Sister’s Mugshot,” as well as a poem in remembrance of the victims of the 2015 Pulse Nightclub massacre entitled “Orlando.” Alongside “Orlando,” Gibson performed their poem “Your Life,” which dealt with LGBTQ struggles in everyday life.
At one point in the show, they noted that they wished “more Trump supporters would come to my shows, since half of my poems are about them and they never [expletive] hear them”.
During the show, Gibson invited their longtime friend and fellow poet, Natalie Illum, to the stage. Illum, only visiting the tour from her residency in Washington, D.C., performed two of her original pieces, a spoken word poem titled “Blueprint” and an unpublished haiku.
As the show wound down, Gibson encouraged the audience to join them and their touring crew in singing “Stand by Me”. The show ended on an emotional note, as Gibson’s poem “The Nutritionist,” about living with mental illness, moved audience members to tears.
Gibson noted their enjoyment of the gender galaxy painting hanging in the all-gender restroom across from Cole Cinema, commenting its likeness to the name of their tour.
The show was also Gibson’s first since the publishing of their book “Take Me With You,” released Jan. 23, 2018. According to Gibson’s website, the book is “small enough to carry with you, with messages big enough to stay with you, from one of the most quotable and influential poets of our time.”
For more information on Andrea Gibson or to purchase their book, visit andreagibson.org.