Put some corn tortillas in oil. Set them at a low boil. Hear them sizzle.
Spoken word artist David Romero kicked off this year’s first Another Type of Groove (ATOG) on Wednesday night with a “delightfully cheesy” poem teaching the audience how to make cheese enchiladas in the name of fighting racism.
This month’s ATOG, sponsored by the MultiCultural Center, was dedicated to Latino heritage. The night was filled with poetry and other creative expressions, including free-styling, singing and stand-up comedy from Romero and Cal Poly students. Half of the event was an open mic and the other half was poetry from Romero and his two colleagues, Matt Sedillo and Yazmin Monet Watkins.
Though Romero had never been to Cal Poly’s campus, he’s visited many other universities, including Cal Poly Pomona, to speak at events focusing on Latino heritage.
“I do think it’s unfortunate that sometimes on college campuses you won’t find a performer of a race, class or gender unless it’s their designated month,” Romero said. “I feel like we need it for right now, but ideally, we would want a time where there was so much representation from everybody that we wouldn’t have to impose it.”
Much of Romero’s material is centered on his Mexican American background and identity, family and social justice issues. Exemplified by his opening poem, much of his work incorporated humor found in stereotypes of Latino culture in an attempt to combat them.
Romero started his career with underground rap and realized many rappers also perform spoken word. As he attended more open mics and poetry slams, he began to feel an itch to tell his own story.
“I think the first part of any writer, especially a poet or a spoken word artist, is telling their own story,” Romero said. “It’s kind of like clearing off a lot of the baggage of their soul.”
He has written about many personal experiences, from breakups — as evidenced by his poem “Secret Beaches” — to family deaths.
“Now that I have finished telling my story, it’s time to move on to tell other people’s stories,” he said. “That has been the true joy of it, because eventually I would have become sick of writing just about myself.”
“Undocumented Football” is one poem telling another person’s story: a high school quarterback, Miguel, who dreams of a scholarship to a university even though he is not a legal resident of the United States.
Romero was also impressed by Cal Poly students’ stories and poems during the open mic portion.
“It was really great to hear all the first-timers on the mic,” Romero said. “That’s always really inspiring. It reminds me of what it is to sit down and write and bear your soul, for it to be a cathartic process. I was really impressed and moved when students wrote about the death of loved ones and breakups.”
For those wanting to start writing or improve on spoken word, Romero said one of the best things to do is to listen to someone you like and figure out what you like about them. Afterward, listen to someone completely different and pick out your favorite elements of that artist. Merging the two together can help artists find their own voices.
ATOG coordinator and biology junior Brianti Williams wrote poetry before coming to Cal Poly and got involved with ATOG after she heard a spoken word performer during Week of Welcome. ATOG always welcomes new voices, she said.
“I like to think of it like a home away from home, just an open space,” she said. “It is a major de-stressor. When you come here, you can let everything off your chest and not feel like people are going to judge you for it, because they really don’t here, and it’s kind of amazing.”