Identity. Violence. Confidence. Beauty. Womanhood. These are themes that permeated the poems recited at the “Herstory” open mic on Wednesday, March 20. The University of South Florida St. Petersburg’s (USFSP) Office of Multicultural Affairs hosted the event in honor of Women’s History Month.
One by one, women from the USFSP community stood up to perform spoken word poetry. Performers bravely told a room full of strangers the most intimate details of their lives. The crowd was quiet as they listened to the cadence of each poem. Occasionally, cheers and applause erupted when a certain stanza resonated with the audience.
One of the women who performed was Gio Cano, president of The Poetry Club at USFSP. Cano has been performing poetry since her junior year in high school when her English teacher signed her up for a poetry jam without her knowledge. She says performing poetry is an important outlet for her to speak her truth as a woman of color.
“Being a woman affects every aspect of my life,” Cano said.” I’m able to relate to other people through my poetry, and other people are able to relate to me. Being a woman of color has an even greater impact because representation matters.”
Several of the poets spoke about feeling oversexualized by society. They talked about the fear they feel while walking alone at night, how it always seems like a pair of eyes are on them. One of Cano’s poems touches on this topic with the line, “Naked. But there is nothing sexy about me.”
When asked about the line, Cano said, “It speaks about the objectification of women. As a Latina, I’ve always been sexualized. I’ve always been perceived as exotic or a category on a website.”
Cano encourages anyone who has any interest to try writing and performing poetry. She admits that it can be terrifying, but said once you do it, you will be thankful you spoke your mind.
“You’re going to be anxious the first time, the second time, honestly you’re always going to be anxious,” Cano said. “The adrenaline rush that you get after you perform makes everything worth it. The validation you get from being able to conquer your stage fright is amazing.”
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This article was corrected March 25 as it incorrectly creditited USFSP’s Poetry Club as the hosts of the event. The event was hosted by the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA).