Another Type of Groove (ATOG) will continue its promotion of the spoken word Dec. 3rd, bringing champion poet Javon Johnson to the Chumash Auditorium.
Johnson’s poetry bridges hip-hop and rap traditions with a subject matter of education and literary activism.
“I first saw him doing ‘Elementary’ on HBO and I was really impressed,” said Josue Urrutia, a coordinator at the Cal Poly Multicultural Center. “He’s definitely got a social consciousness and most of it has to do with changing society.”
A native to South Central Los Angeles, Johnson has competed five times with a team representing the city in the National Poetry Slam. At the same time he earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in communications studies. He is currently working on a doctorate in Performance Studies at Northwestern University.
As the last speaker in the series this year, his message of deconstructing, “practices that promote foundations of inequality” reinforces the Cal Poly Multi-Cultural Center’s purpose in bringing the poets to campus.
“We bring in a variety of regional, professional poets that have won national titles or featured on HBO’s Def Jam. They’re not just a student that’s coming up, but they’ve had some professional experience,” said Mickela Gonzales, a diversity advocate with the Multi-Cultural Center.
Besides the main attraction, there will also be time for open mic presentations. With the show split into two main features, approximately 10 student performers are expected share their work.
“One of the things we try to do is coordinate ATOG with cultural heritage months, for example February was Black History Month so we featured African-Americans and in March we had female poets, but in December we only have one week of school so we just looked for someone with a compatible schedule and budget,” Gonzales said.
“Our budget is a big issue,” Urrutia said. “It’s part of the reason we look for local poets, but he was already going to be in town this week so it really worked out.”
Featured poets such as Johnson or November’s Random Abiladeze have given the student community a chance to see what others have done and how they have created their own style.
“We’re in our eighth year of presentation and that’s just part of the format,” Urrutia said. “We always try to encourage new poets and the crowds really come out to hear their peers.”
While Johnson has performed for audiences of 1,000 before, the center hopes that he will draw a crowd consistent with the 300 people that have attended the monthly performances.
“It all started here because of an interest in the spoken word and that seems to have grown,” Gonzales said. “It just gives people a chance to get up and say something in front of a crowd.”