When I entered Rice House on Friday night, I discovered a cozy interior booming with words of passion as new campus group SpeakFree was hosting its first “Poetry Jam,” and the debut performance was in full throttle. The small room emanated energy and was packed with an eager audience, of whom many were poet contributors themselves.
While there are a number of events and venues on campus for spoken word, such as the Spotlight series, Women’s Center Open Mic and Cabaret Paresky, SpeakFree is the first campus group of its kind, a student-run collective specifically devoted to fostering the spoken word as art. I recently interviewed SpeakFree’s coordinator, Mo Lotif ’11, to find out more about the concept behind the fledgling group.
What is SpeakFree?
SpeakFree is a student-run group that was born from the passion, love and curiosity for poetry and performance. It is a nurturing place that allows individuals who love poetry to grow as poets and also hone the skills that they develop as writers. To my knowledge it is the first spoken word group on campus.
How did SpeakFree develop?
SpeakFree developed and grew from small writing/poetry/performance workshops that were held in [Campus Life Coordinator] Arif Smith’s house, since the beginning of this school year. At this primal stage the group was known around campus as the “Poetry Lab.” But as the “Poetry Lab” grew, so did the frequency of our performances and eventually the members came together as a collective and realized that the group had enough passion, interest and potential to be a successful organization, and from that meeting SpeakFree was “officially” established.
What kinds of events has SpeakFree hosted in the past, and what kinds of events are in the works?
SpeakFree has not really hosted any events since it was not an established organization until recently, but the “Poetry Lab” and its individual members have performed at a multitude of events. As far as events in the works go, we are planning to have monthly SpeakFree performances and open mics, in addition to an end of semester finale performance done on a grander scale.
What other organizations are involved with SpeakFree?
So far we have only worked with the BSU in getting together our first performance at Rice House and Arif Smith, [who] is our faculty coordinator. But in the future we hope to work with many more organizations.
What is your vision for what SpeakFree can be? How does that fit in with the recent incidents of intolerance on campus?
My vision alone does not fit into what SpeakFree can be. After all it is a collective . . . But what I would like to say is that through spoken word, SpeakFree provides individuals with a platform that allows them to perform their ideas, emotions and issues in a way that allows everyone to see what resonates within the poet’s mind. And the poet in this case does not have to worry about being reprimanded or belittled in any way for their thoughts, because through poetry the things they say becomes a piece of art . . . to be enjoyed but more importantly to be meditated and dwelled upon.
With that being said, I feel like through SpeakFree individuals can freely voice their ideas about the injustices they may see around them and that in turn can open the eyes of anybody on campus who is willing to listen. I’m not saying SpeakFree is the only way to bring forth issues but it definitely is a creative and soulful medium.
Anything else you want to add?
I just want to end with thanking everyone who came to support us and leave you with this quote of mine: “Earth ties cannot confine the poet/Reach for their thoughts,/And you will find galaxies/In the palm of your hands. . .”