Poetry and pressing conversations about social justice typically go hand-in-hand, and “Dare To Speak” confirms just this. Carlos Andrés Gómez and Katie Kramer spoke to University of New Mexico students on Sept. 1 about activism through poetry through the Student Activities Center.
I recently found myself reminiscing about on-campus events that wouldn’t happen this semester, prompting me to click on UNM’s Aug. 31 newsletter, “This Week at UNM.” I scrolled until I saw an activist poetry event and, thrilled to see the efforts to spark meaningful conversations among students, I immediately signed up.
Kramer and Gómez are collaborators who perform poetry together at various schools and companies in order to promote inclusivity in professional settings.
From the moment the performance started, it was overwhelmingly clear that both Gómez and Kramer were living their truths so that their audience could live theirs too. I felt safe in allowing myself to live freely, and it was evident that the other members of that Zoom call felt the same way.
Gómez began by reciting original poems about love and inclusivity. His poems were full of hard-hitting social justice issues. He specifically talked about his Colombian ethnicity but very pale skin, making him appear white and causing people to question his identity. On the other hand, he doesn’t have to fear encounters with police officers in the ways that his Black children do.
As Gómez held back tears during this poem’s performance, the all-too relevant feeling of heartbreak from viewing police brutality events that occurred during this year alone was present.
Before each piece, he opened the audience to reflective thought by sharing personal experiences, evoking feelings of true community. We were a group of people who gathered and related to one another. When unable to relate, we had the opportunity to learn about the scrutiny others live through.
Gómez’s warm, inquisitive attitude permitted audience members to live with the understanding that they are allowed to be themselves in the same way that both performers were.
Kramer’s queer identity stood proudly at the heart of her performance. She shared the discrimination she faced from her high school when her sexuality was outed without her consent, being given options to avoid changing in front of other students.
Kramer recounted the complicated relationship with her 91-year-old grandmother, who is a product of the era in which she was raised. Although the event was remote, the feeling of relatability between her and the audience was undeniable.
Kramer ended with a poem discussing the scrutiny she faced after falling in love with a transgender man. She questioned the people who decided that she wasn’t “gay enough” after scrutinizing her for being gay at all.
Kramer and Gómez had diverse experiences and listened to each other in ways that encouraged the individuals on the Zoom call to demonstrate empathy for one another. The two poets clearly admired and respected one another very much and had built chemistry during the time that they have been working together.
Amid the pandemic, full of groups speaking out against social
justice, it is of the utmost importance that events such as this one exist — events wherein individuals use their art to share their experiences of social injustice.
Sarah Bodkin is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @sarahbodkin4