Thanks to MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson in Marketing and Communications for a great piece on the Diversity Monologue Contest - "Powerful Voices".
Contest marks 10th anniversary with compelling performances and new twists
by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson
November 28, 2012
Watkins '09 performs activist poetry during a 2009 event on campus.
Watkins is one of seven alumni poets who will return to campus to
perform during the 10th-anniversary Diversity Monologues.
Brittany Barker '15 was already an accomplished spoken-word poet
when she visited Dickinson during her senior year in high school. As
she walked across campus with a tour group, a flier for the annual
Diversity Monologues caught her eye. "I was really excited to see that,
because I knew that this was a place where I could voice my thoughts and
feelings," she says. "I knew that if I came to school here, I'd want to
be a part of that event."
Three years later, Barker has gotten her wish—and she's helping
others find their voices too, as the campus celebrates the 10th
anniversary of the Diversity Monologues contest.
Held Friday, Nov. 30 (Rector Atrium, 7 p.m.), and sponsored by the
Office of Diversity Initiatives (ODI) and its subdivision Voices of the
People, the contest provides a unique opportunity for students to
present original works to a panel of professional poets and to a
gathering of peers, bringing to light a spectrum of ideas relating to
identity, community and resistance. Prizes are awarded to the
top-scoring student competitors, and guest performers bring additional
inspiration and experiences to the mix.
Continuing the legacy
Traditionally, the event is headlined by spoken-word poets from arts
organizations across the region and nation, but this year's contest has a
distincitvely Dickinsonian twist. Young alumni members of the Dickinson
spoken-word-poetry group Silent Poets—Tiffany Hwang '11, Tiffany Mane
'10, Ashley Peel '11, Rich Robinson '08, Flosha Tejada '11, Yazmin Monet Watkins '09 and Tynesha Wright '08—will travel to campus to share their works.
"Inviting alumni to perform as guest artists is our way of really
honoring the continuity and growth [of the program] over the past few
years," says Landis House Program Assistant Sara Klemann, who organized
the event under direction of ODI director Paula Lima-Jones. "Their
legacy continues on our campus, and we're still connected to them and
their mission and work, just as we're still committed to creating spaces
where student voices can be heard."
"Honesty is the way"
Last month, the event organizers debuted a Diversity Monologues
workshop series to help students continue that legacy. Representatives
from the English department and the Counseling Center joined student
poets Fabian Hernandez '15, a veteran of the 2012 Semana Poética,
and Barker, president of Dickinson spoken-word group Exiled, to offer
tips about how the young writer-performers could think through the
messages they wished to convey and polish their writing and performance
During her presentation, Barker offered simple pointers to her fellow
students, saying, "When you write to impress, you lose the heart of
what you are saying. You need to keep in mind who you are talking to,
what you're trying to say and why we should be listening. If you can
answer those questions, you're on the right track. Honesty is the way."
Students remaining true to these principles connect powerfully with
the audience, she says, creating a unique and moving communal experience
for everyone involved. "The Diversity Monologues invite you into the
lives of fellow students who are brave enough to share their
experiences," Barker explains. "What they learn is that for every
student who shares their story there are so many more out there who feel
the same way."