"I am waiting," Jordan Holmes said with confidence, interrupting the murmurs of crowd members still finding their seats.
Tuesday night, Holmes, a senior materials science and engineering major and vice president of VT Expressions launched Virginia Tech's first Poetry Slam with a powerful poem, entitled “Get on the Bus,” about the Montgomery Bus Boycott, catching everyone in the room off guard.
The Hillcrest dining room was filled with students, teachers and artists who gathered for the Poetry Slam sponsored by Nikki Giovanni and VT Expressions, a group made up of students who possess an array of creative talents that span from drawing to rapping.
Giovanni’s connections to other universities prompted students to travel from Duke University and St. Augustine University for the event, with six Duke students performing pieces.
Matthew Vollmer, assistant professor and director of creative writing, described the event as “uplifting.”
“The more exposure that the creative writing program can get, the better. It shows (students) that what they have to say matters,” Vollmer said. “It was a privilege to watch other artists from other schools.”
In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the artistic theme for the night was based on the events in the Civil Rights Movement and the spirited efforts of those involved.
After Holmes secured everyone's attention when opening the event, Nikki Giovanni took the stage, speaking on the importance of the arts and global awareness.
She spoke about her time in Ghana and told a story of an experience with racism.
“There's nothing backwards, there's just nothing forwards,” said Giovanni. “We're reaching out because we want America to move with us.”
Following Giovanni's introduction, Kelsey Sams, a senior construction engineering and management major, performed her piece “A Letter for My Loss,” which evoked scores of snaps from the audience.
“I think sometimes being as young as we are, we don't really look back at the past,” Sams said. “This was a great opportunity to really learn your history and learn from the past so you can know where you're going in the future.”
There were musical performances along with the poetry readings to help capture the essence of the era. Midori Oglesby sang “Strange Fruit” by Billie Holiday and Joshua Kim played pieces on the ukulele.
According to Holmes, all forms of art are an essential part of our culture that many people don’t appreciate.
“I really want to emphasize people paying more attention to the arts," Sams said. "I'm an engineer and an artist, and I think the two really go hand in hand.”
“You don’t have to be an art major or an English major — Tech has something to offer (artists) too, and people don’t always remember that,” Sams said.