Voices for the Voiceless
written by Stacey Linehan
On Saturday December 3rd, presented by Amherst College’s La Causa, the 14th annual poetry event, “Voices for the Voiceless,” showcased a brilliant six poet line up including Shihan, Oveous Maximus, Geminete, Mayda del Valle, Willie Perdomo, and Flaco Navaja. The event was held in the Friedmann Room in the Keefe Campus Center. The line was long but moving when I arrive around 5:15.
The first 30 minutes of the event allowed people to get some delicious, spanish food provided by Salsarengue Catering in Holyoke, MA. While people found their seats and began to fill themselves and the space up, they were kept entertained thanks to DJ Killa Kyle who was later nicknamed “Yote” by poet Shihan who emceed the event before performing his own work. “Kyle Yote. It’s like coyote” he joked.
Willie Perdomo, the first to performer shared with us poems and inspirational stories of kids he has worked with. He talked about street life and moving forward, especially in artistic ways. He shared one story of a boy who wanted him to write a piece for his girlfriend. He wrote a cheesy poem and everyone laughed, then he got real, down to the details of how this girl would trace her name in cursive on his back until he fell asleep and how much he missed his girl. This light and serious contrast said a lot about his multifaceted artistic talent.
Flaco Navaja followed, his pieces written in both Spanish and English. He told his story of growing up and learning to express himself through this spoken word and how he has found a second family with the people he performs with. Along with his poetic brilliance, he displayed a musical talent as he belted Spanish songs that captivated the audience. He talked about hoe he became a father nine months after losing his virginity and promoted to everyone to be careful and use protection.
Oveous Maximus was next to go and he started by saying, “I am not really a poet, I’m a music producer, but somehow I have managed to trick everyone in to believing I am a poet so here I go.” After a few poems, he asked everyone to stand up and move forward so he would perform a song in a more appropriate concert type setting. Everyone moved up and when the beat dropped and lyrics started, the nodding of heads made it clear that his message was felt.
A tough act to follow, Gemineye was next and he delivered. A familiar face to many who have seen his work on HBO, he performed fan’s favorites including, “Penny for Your thoughts” as well as some other poems and letters that were not heard before. He read one letter that he wrote to Chris Brown, addressing the situation which happened with Rihanna, and how he disagreed with his lack of true masculinity. He pointed out his wife and child in the audience and performed a poem about how much he loved his wife and how they compliment each other.
Next Mayda del Valle came on stage, representing for the women. She, like Flaco, Perdomo, and Oveous Mazimus performed in both English and Spanish and like Flaco could sing beautifully. She talked about how she was addicted to the hip-hop culture and that was reflected in the boys she had dated in the past, a break dancer, a graffiti artist, and a rapper. She said she can’t get over that style or baggy pants and fresh sneakers. She also performed a more well known piece, “Mambo” in which she described her mother’s passion for cooking and how it has shaped the person she is today. She learned how to cook, and dance, and much more all in her kitchen growing up. Her Latino mother never takes short cuts and will cook the most flavorful meals that no one can forget.
After emceeing for the entire night, it was time fore Shihan to show us what he could do poetically. He performed an older piece he wrote about wanting to fall in love and feel all the things that comes with that love. He changed his original ending to include the wife he has now and how grateful he is to have someone to share all his passion and love with. He also read a email that he had written to his mother when he was in college. It was extremely relatable to the audience which was predominately college students. He complains about the tedious tasks we must complete and how college is nothing like the pamphlet said. Everyone was laughing and making comments in agreement.
When the night came to an end. La Causa organization came on stage for recognition of the amazing event they had made happen. Everyone left satisfied. “All the performers were very different but I enjoyed the fact that they all spoke about relate able topics. The event was eye opening” said Keva Miles, a student from UMass when I asked her about the show.