The year’s first Another Type of Groove, a spoken word event held on campus, paid tribute to recently deceased ATOG participant, rising physics sophomore Kyle Rhodes. The night also featured two-time national slam poet Matt Sedillo (above).
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The year’s first Another Type of Groove (ATOG) — a monthly spoken word event organized by the MultiCultural Center — began on a somber note Wednesday, as attendees paid tribute to a recently deceased ATOG regular, rising physics sophomore Kyle Rhodes. Rhodes, 19, died during summer break in a car accident.
“He was here, he was dedicated to ATOG, he was passionate about his poetry and he was the kind of person that made you happy just to be in their presence,” said Briantí Williams, ATOG coordinator and biological sciences sophomore. “We really appreciate him being a part of the ATOG family, and we’re going to dedicate this night to him.”
After Williams found out about the car crash this summer, she got in touch with this past year’s ATOG coordinator and recent Cal Poly alumnus José Beltran, and they decided to honor Rhodes’ passion for poetry at the first ATOG of the season.
“He was the kind of person who I thought, two or three years down the road, would be up here, running ATOG,” Beltran said before a moment of silence in Rhodes’ honor.
Still, the night turned out to be “inspiring and joyful,” Williams said.
“Words!” of encouragement echoed throughout Chumash Auditorium, and the crowd of near 100 attendees bellowed, whooped, stomped, snapped and clapped for the open mic performers.
During this month’s open mic portion, community members performed stand-up comedy, rapped, sang, did impressions and, of course, slammed original poems.
Although many audience members were first-timers, when Williams said, “Poetry is … ” first-time attendees quickly learned to holler back “contagious.”
“What was most special about tonight’s ATOG was that there were a lot of first-year students who seemed to feel about ATOG what I felt about ATOG my first year,” Williams said, “which is that it’s a space where they can come to enjoy themselves and express themselves. If students want a place to be heard or a place to listen, then they should come out to ATOG.”
Along with the open mic, every ATOG features a guest poet; these monthly poets typically represent a different cultural heritage. Wednesday night’s ATOG celebrated Latino culture in honor of October, National Hispanic Heritage Month. Two-time national slam poet Matt Sedillo headlined.
Sedillo, who was born in a little town on the east side of Los Angeles, grew up in a “very Latino, very brown world,” he said.
Because of this upbringing, Sedillo became very passionate about “the fight against police brutality, the fight against gentrification, the fight against racism and, in a broader sense, the fight against exploitation,” among other issues facing working class Latinos across the country, he said.
His poetry, a blend of the political and the personal, presents a pro-working class world view.
“Being at one of my performances is a little bit like being at a political rally except there’s rhythm and meters and dramatic pauses and one-liners,” Sedillo said.
Despite one-liners and humor in his poetry, Sedillo recognizes the seriousness of speaking as a representative of Latino culture.
“As a Latino poet, I have a specific responsibility to show that we’re all a part of something much larger than ourselves,” Sedillo said. “Right now, there is so much animosity, and it’s my responsibility to respond to that in a human way and to publicly defend the innate human dignity of Latino people here in the United States.”
ATOG is the first Wednesday of every month at 7:30 p.m. in Chumash Auditorium.
Audio slideshow by Maggie Kaiserman.