On the first Wednesday of every month, with the exception of December and January, Cal Poly’s Multicultural Center hosts Another Type of Groove (ATOG) in Chumash Auditorium located in the Julian A. McPhee University Union. The spoken word event is a space for students and featured speakers to come together for a night of self-expression. The only rule is “respect the mic, respect the poet.” 

For the month of October, ATOG teamed up with Safer for Domestic Violence Awareness month. They also featured speakers from Movimento Estudiantil Xicano de Aztlán (M.E.X.A.), a Chicano club on campus, for National Hispanic Heritage month.

“I just want this to be a space where people come in to hear their peers and share their experiences … You know, something for people to feel at home in,” ATOG host and biochemistry sophomore Monique Ejenuko said.

In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, the feature of the night was actor, poet and comedian Joe Hernandez-Kolski, who is of Mexican and Polish descent. The Emmy award-winner shared his talents and stories with the crowd via honest, heartfelt humor.

From the get-go, Hernandez-Kolski captivated the audience with nonstop entertainment. After finding a volunteer from the crowd to beatbox for him, Hernandez-Kolski burst out into a rap about himself, referencing his Polish nose and his love for the color black, among other things.

He then segued into a story-time segment, in which he shared his experience of growing up under the influence of both Mexican and Polish cultures. Hernandez-Kolski described how he learned to find his own identity and overcome stereotypes, from the time he was a young boy to a college student at Princeton University.

“In my Chicago neighborhood, I could have easily joined a gang … if I wasn’t involved in dance, poetry and theatre,” Hernandez-Kolski said.

On the subject of self-discovery and college, Hernandez-Kolski shared his top ten tips with the audience, ranging from advice such as “be patient with yourself” to “fail”.

“Failure is awesome. My greatest discoveries have come from my darkest moments,” Hernandez-Kolski said.

Following Hernandez-Kolski’s introduction was the spoken word section of the night.  This consisted of poem topics ranging from Neo-Nazis recruiting the young and vulnerable through social media, to relationships old and new. A few people also chose to rap and beatbox original pieces.

“I think spoken word is really necessary to have in any facility where people can have healthy expression and formulate their own opinions and talk about issues that really matter,” English freshman Grace McGuire said. “It’s important to have a space where you can be you without any fear of judgment.”

Some audience members, including Ejenuko, were so inspired by their fellow ATOG community that they volunteered to perform themselves.  One of the volunteers, second year public policy masters student Manuel Burciaga, walked up to the microphone for a spontaneous debut performance.

“This is the first time I’ve felt at home since I moved here. Thank you,”
Burciaga said.

Hernandez-Kolski closed the show by performing a spoken word poem with McGuire and then a letter to his future wife, which he managed to make sincere yet comical.

Throughout the night, Hernandez-Kolski cheered on performers and addressed everyone with positivity and encouragement.  He emphasized the significance that words and actions have in our lives.

“You dictate the way the world views you,” Hernandez-Kolski said, “You have so much control of how you present yourself to the world, more so than ever before.”

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