Take Back the Mic, a unique platform for artistic expression

Take Back the Mic offers a safe space for students to express personal as well as social issues today.
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On Thursday, coffee brewed and students chattered at the Tea Room of Beamish-Munro Hall in anticipation of Take Back the Mic - an Alt-Frosh open mic event. The evening’s stage acted as a canvas ready to be painted with the stories of minority groups that have historically and still to this day, been deprived of a voice.

Presented by OPIRG Kingston and the AMS Social Issues Commision, the event attracted students who are passionate about social justice, spoken-word and storytelling. There was a welcoming ambience in the intimate space, complemented by free snacks, tea and coffee.

The Tea Room was ironically lit with blinding daylight as performers recited often dark poetry. The poets ranged in terms of their styles, topics, ages, backgrounds, sexual orientations, and genders, but a notable performance was that of Billie Kearns, Sci ’18, who dazzled the audience with her clever narrative poems about her family’s Indigenous background.

The performers addressed many meaningful topics, including racism, transphobia, homophobia, misogyny and mental illness. The performers created a mosaic of stories, distinguished by their diversity, but united by their gift of words.

Palpably vibrant and remarkably eloquent, the headliner of the evening was distinguished slam poet Niambi Leigh. Their work masterfully paints the overlap of gender, race, sexual orientation and mental health in society. Niambi’s poems are honest, musical and spoken with poignant conviction. “Every poet has a rhythm, but being a child of immigration, I incorporate a more rhythmic base and mix in some Creole,” Niambi described their work in an interview with The Journal.

There are also undertones of isolation, as Niambi grew up in a predominantly white neighbourhood of Peterborough. “Growing up in Peterborough made me into a bit of an activist; I like to write poems about social justice,” Niambi explained.

Niambi’s work derives inspiration from a broad spectrum of sources, from notions of the natural world to the lyrical storytelling that is characteristic of artists like Noname and Chance the Rapper.

“I’m not sure if I have the confidence every time I perform, but when the audience responds well to my poetry and when it is clear that my words are what they needed to hear, it becomes a community-building experience,” Niambi said. “And I am interested in building that space."

Niambi seeks to encourage people to “heal in whatever way they want, be it through word or music or listening.”

Take Back the Mic was a successful evening, as it served as both a platform for expression and a source of inspiration for the artistic students of Queen’s. The audience gave the performers snaps and the performers gave the audience chills.

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