Race, Sex and Poetry

The poetry night held at the University of Illinois at Chicago last Friday as part of the “Race, Sex, Power: New Movements in Black & Latina/o Sexualities” conference was an invigorating plunge into the world of minorities living within minority populations in America and abroad. The conference–a collaboration between various colleges across Chicago including the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago, DePaul University, and Columbia College Chicago–was designed to examine the intersections of art, sexuality, public health, and other subjects in Latino and African-American cultures, but the poetry night was almost exclusively focused on the lifestyles of minority gays in the non-white world.

Through an eclectic collection of people that included a political activist, a former prisoner of war, an acclaimed author and a Tony-award-winning poet, the night questioned the ties of sisterhood that bound women together despite differences in sexual orientation. It delved into the relationships shared between different genders both within and outside of America and, in doing so, underscored how differently those bonds are perceived outside of the U.S. Through remarkable and moving group performances and stunning recitations of pieces delivered by individuals, the poets questioned how minorities could ever think to support themselves in a hostile world if they continued to use the same prejudices that outsiders used against them upon people living within their own cultures. Each speaker’s message resounded with courage, wisdom, and hope for a better tomorrow, and if the applause, supportive shouting, somber nodding, and enthusiastic cheers that came from the audience could be used as any indication, the night was a success in that it made people consider the state of today’s society–and how it can be made better.