The sound of snapping, whoops of agreement and resounding “Word!”s filled Chumash Auditorium as the final Another Type of Groove (ATOG) of the year unfolded Wednesday evening. Organized by the MultiCultural Center, the spoken word event gave the opportunity for any student to show off his or her talent in an open mic portion as well as witness the main attraction, guest slam poet Brian “SuperB” Oliva.
ATOG monthly events this year were coordinated with a different cultural heritage in mind, event coordinator and biomedical engineering senior Jose Beltran said. The show on Wednesday was tied to the Asian/Pacific Islander heritage, but anyone was welcome to participate in the open mic portion.
“It’s an open space for community members to share what they have on their heart,” Beltran said. “In this event you do see a different amount of people in terms of race and ethnicity, gender and culture.”
Students have the opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas through spoken word poetry, a song, stand-up comedy, beatboxing or rapping.
“I think it really does open up minds and broadens perspectives of people,” Beltran said. “You realize people are dealing with issues that may never have crossed your mind.”
Featured poet Oliva began performing at open mics just like ATOG. From that experience, he earned the title of two-time Inland Empire Grand Slam Champion. He was the co-host of Urbane Culture open mic for three years. Now, he performs at many different venues where he meets new people and is inspired to write more poetry.
“It’s really just the energy of the room, memorizing that and then writing that,” Oliva said. “A lot of the time I won’t remember any of the people, but I will remember what the space looked like and remember what it felt like.”
However, Oliva’s poetry is not just inspired by the vibe from open mic nights. His poems also incorporate his experiences from before he fell in love with spoken word.
“A lot of my poetry is from personal experience,” Oliva said. “I try to keep my stuff light and thought-provoking. It is an array of different topics like cultural identity, a poem dedicated to my future son, things that I miss from childhood and love.”
His poem entitled “Identity” encapsulates the heart and mission of ATOG. In it, Oliva talks about his Latin and Asian cultural background and how it felt to grow up with that background in Los Angeles as a kid.
When he is not traveling, he coaches the Azusa Pacific University’s Slam Team.
“You start off showing students poets that inspire you. I try to be that same person for my students,” Oliva said. “And then go to the poetry basics like metaphor and simile.”
There are many other components students have to learn to master spoken word, such as gaining confidence in front of an audience.
The only way to do this is for students to go to open mics to share their own work, he said. However, it isn’t just the students who gain something from the experience.
“It gives me the opportunity to hear new art,” Oliva said. “That is one of the reasons why I go to these things, is to be inspired.”
While Wednesday was the last ATOG of the year, there were many first-time student performers. As students introduced themselves and their poems, many relayed that they had felt inspired by previous ATOGs and had promised they would read a poem of their own by the end of the year.
Student poems and songs ranged from traditional love poems — both bitter and sweet — to a more meta approach, poetry about writing poetry. Other topics included the joys and pains of mechanical engineering, divorce, religion and fears.
First-time ATOG attendee and food science and nutrition sophomore Rachel Simons particularly enjoyed the poems about diverse nationality backgrounds.
“A lot of people might feel like they know a lot about other cultures, but you can never really get enough of it,” Simons said. “You can never know too much about culture.”
The encouraging snaps and shouts of approval from the audience ensured that students who participated felt heard.
“It helps to always keep breaking down boundaries,” attendee and political science sophomore Amanda Rolander said. “Even though you might think you know people, until they have their true words come out you may not understand their experience.”
Students who haven’t had their fill of rhythm, words or beats are in luck: the MultiCultural Center’s annual slam poetry contest, The Anthem, will be held in Chumash Auditorium this Wednesday at 7 p.m.