November 16, 2010
Katrina Jackson stood on the stage preparing herself. She took a breath, set her stance and launched into her poem.
"You came to school with the attitude of finding out who you are and accomplishing a vision to fulfill a dream of success," the Indiana State University senior chanted rhythmically for one of the stanzas. "But in finding yourself, you lost sight of morals instilled in you because you're grown now."
After each stanza the communication major urged those listening with, "Women get your mind right. Men, get your mind right."
Jackson performed as part of Bless the Mic held at 9 p.m. every other Thursday at Indiana State's African-American Cultural Center. Performances the rest of the semester are Nov. 18 and Dec. 2. The December program will be held in the Center for Performing and Fine Arts Recital Hall.
"It's a place where you can hear poetry and different forms of expression," said Jackson, who claims Gary and Indianapolis as home.
Indeed 150 people, some from as far away as Indianapolis, attend the Thursday night variety show that includes skits and praise dance as well as the more common poetry and song. It all has one focus though. Student organizers ask that the performers Bless the Mic.
"Bless it, stop speaking as many curses as you can," said Timothy Black, the program's committee chair and senior history major from Indianapolis.
That doesn't mean performers can't use the occasional curse word in their performances.
"You got to be tasteful," Black said. "Say something your mother could listen to or something you can play in front of your relatives, your grandma."
On a recent Thursday night, performers did just that as first-timers and audience favorites stepped on to the stage to entertain, encourage and challenge the attendees.
"It takes a lot of courage to get up here, so be respectful," Mary Francis, a junior psychology major from Hammond and one of the show's hosts, reminded the audience
Francis became involved with Bless the Mic because she enjoyed the poetry she would hear on Thursday nights.
"It's amazing to see an artist get on stage and see the talent they have," she said.
Lloyd Taylor, a communication graduate student from Indianapolis, attended Bless the Mic as an undergraduate and now works as a host. He said a spirit of brotherly love pervades the event and that students build friendships there.
"Most people typically when they're in a good environment full of love, they do better in life and people want to do better in life," he said. "This is why they come to Bless the Mic."
Question and answer time pepper the event and hosts encouraged the students to not only get involved politically but academically as well.
"You have five weeks left to turn it around," Francis told the crowd about grades in their classes.
Jackson said Bless the Mic provides the opportunity for underclassmen to learn from their peers.
"We're not talking at them but giving them messages, through poetry and relating to them, that we've been where they are," she said.
Black said while performing is gratifying for the artists, but the audience also can be inspired.
"When we get up on the stage to bless the mic, it's a big deal, but I think the audience gets as much as the speaker gets," he said.
Standing onstage, Black wiped his brow, before quietly stating "America," the title of the poem he wrote with two others. He then stepped forward and barked "America, America" before almost singing out, "Where have you been?"
When he finished reciting the multi-stanza poem with the last lines "Country Indiana boy, my first drink was gin," the crowd erupted into applause.
Black said he hopes that students listening to the performances become inspired enough to try their own pieces and that people from across campus would attend and perform.
"Come bless the mic," he said. "It' doesn't matter about creed or color. It's all about love."
Timothy Black performs during Bless the Mic. ISU Photo/Bethany Baker
Audience listens to Bless the Mic. ISU Photo/Bethany Baker
Katrina Jackson performs during Bless the Mic. ISU Photo/Bethany Baker
Contact: Timothy Black, Indiana State University, Bless the Mic committee chair, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Writer: Jennifer Sicking, Indiana State University, assistant director of media relations, at 812-237-7972 or Jennifer.email@example.com
Bless the Mic takes place at 9 p.m. every other Thursday at Indiana State's African-American Cultural Center. The next show is Nov. 18.