On a dreary Sunday afternoon, more than half of the Haymarket Theatre inside Squires Student Center begins to slowly fill with people who are expecting an afternoon of entertainment. They carry signs and wear T-shirts for a face who won't be in attendance and when the acts perform, they wave his signs and yell his name. This isn't to discourage the groups; in fact, it is in celebration as the Young Democrats' Rally for Change is centered on rallying support for presidential hopeful Barack Obama.
The event was divvied up between acts Bacar Bey, HopeHop, the Enlightened Gospel Choir, and Dubnium. In between these acts, speakers talked about Obama and what they think he offers for the future. The event was conceived by the Young Democrats at Virginia Tech over the previous summer. It was entirely funded by self-made graffiti style T-shirts that feature the face of the presidential candidate.
"The idea was first floated over the summer when none of us were here," said Dan Geroe, president of the Young Democrats at Virginia Tech. "It would be kind of cool to have a Barack-the-vote concert if you will."
Bacar Bey, a fifth-year senior in the aerospace engineering program, was the first act to perform for the night. His craft is slam poetry, a genre of poetry that is read out loud and delivered in a rhythmic and often intense fashion.
When asked about how he describes slam poetry, Bey answered as a true poet.
"It's like a rollercoaster," he said. "There are high points, there are lows. But overall, it's an exciting ride that if you aren't afraid to listen and delve into it, you can experience something that you never quite thought that you would get out of it. It's a lot deeper than what it seems like on the surface."
Bey became interested in slam poetry four years ago and has performed around Blacksburg at sponsored events on campus. He was approached by the Students for Barack Obama after one member had seen Bey perform and believed his message coincided with their cause.
On stage, Bey's presence is evident. He is tall, wearing a bright orange polo and jeans. Taking small steps back and forth as he speaks, he chokes up on the microphone with one of his hands, holding it close to his mouth. The other hand points and cuts through the air as though he is signaling to an invisible board that clearly depicts his message. His delivery is fast, he lets the words bounce out of his mouth using well-timed accents to give a "see-saw" aspect to his delivery.
"He was awesome," said Nikki Rampino, a senior from Radford who drove out to the event to show her support for the campaign. "He really got his message across; he was just so elegant with the way he spoke. It was beautiful."
Bey's time on stage is short and he performs only two poems. The first, titled "Ode to My People" is met with a standing ovation before he can finish. The other poem, "War on Tradition" was written a week prior specifically for the event. Though Bey is not a very political person, he decided to perform that afternoon because of his faith in the words of Obama.
"The reason that I trust him is his belief in people and investing in people," Bey said, "and people are the hardest to invest in."
Another act to take the stage that afternoon was local Blacksburg band Hopehop.