Diversity and cultural issues hit the Chumash Auditorium in the form of Another Type of Groove (ATOG) on Wednesday, Oct. 5. The featured poets are Prentice Powell and Ner City, according to the Another Type of Groove website.
The MultiCultural Center and Student Life and Leadership created ATOG in 2000 after being inspired by a Sacramento poetry venue called Mahogany. The format contains an open mic section for anyone who signs up, followed by featured poets.
ATOG coordinator and industrial engineering senior Megan McIntyre said she is also the Master of Ceremonies (MC) and in charge of getting the featured poets.
She said spoken word is a rap that essentially exposes the problems in the world.
“It’s an on-campus poetry slam,” McIntyre said.
Shawn Gullatt of Ner City (pronounced inner city) has never performed his spoken word in San Luis Obispo before. He said the city was brought to his attention through his good friend and fellow poet, Prentice Powell’s, Facebook page.
“Prentice was standing on stage in front of a sea of people, and they were all in the ‘b-boy’ and ‘b-girl’ (cross the arms and lean back) stance,” Gullatt said. “I thought to myself, ‘That crowd is bananas!’”
Powell and Ner City, both of whom have preformed with John Legend, will share the stage this Wednesday, and Gullatt said he can’t wait.
Gullatt said he wrote his first poem because he was inspired by the frustration trapped inside his mind.
“Instead of being destructive — or even worse, self-destructive — I poured it out on paper, memorized it and told it to the world,” he said. “I really didn’t think or care at that time that the world could relate to it, I just needed them to listen.”
Gullatt said he began performing on stage after a friend opened his eyes.
“A friend of mine told me that I was wasting my life rapping about foolish things, and that I should channel that energy and writing into something more positive,” he said. “He took me to a spoken word spot, and I was hooked.”
During the open mic section, students have the opportunity to express themselves, whether about cultural issues or to just get something off of their chest, too.
Civil engineering senior Marielle Cuison said she has read poetry at every ATOG since her freshman year in 2008.
“I try my best to sign up for open mic,” Cuison said. “I’ve also read at a few open mics back home in the Bay Area.”
Cuison, who was ATOG’s coordinator last year, said reading her poetry out loud allows her to give them a little something extra.
“I can say words the way I want to say them instead of leaving them in ink for others to interpret,” she said. “I can present my poem the way I want to and the way I wrote it to be.”
Other ATOG attendees, such as biomedical engineering senior Aaron Rowley, were initially drawn to ATOG because of the performances.
Rowley said he fell in love with spoken word in his second year after watching poets Taylor Mali and Anis Mojgani on stage.
Since then, he has taking to performing at ATOG.
“My first spoken word piece was essentially my coming out piece,” he said. “It was a good way for me to release a lot of the anxiety that I had built up, but it was also a way to reach out to audience members that may have been going through a similar process.”
Rowley, who also works for the Prism Peer Counseling program through the Pride Center, said he performs as often as he can because it is a great creative outlet, and the crowd is always awesome.
McIntyre said she hopes to expand ATOG by getting the word out to students, as well as by forming a slam team. If students want to help, McIntyre said to go to the MCC for more information.
“We’re always looking for more people to get involved,” she said.
There are six poetry readings this year. ATOG takes place the first Wednesday of every month from 7:30 to 10 p.m in Chumash Auditorium, except for December and January. The event is free and open to the public.