The theme was throwback hip-hop and the cover was $5, but the atmosphere was far different from any fraternity party. While best known locally for its coffee and tea, Strange Brew hosted “Poetic Vibes” on Saturday night, a forum for poets, dancers, rappers and musicians within the community to express themselves and celebrate Black History Month.
The night was put together by Queens Recognize Queens, an “empowerment brand that promotes diversity, collaboration & leadership,” according to its Facebook page. The event stayed true to its theme, and provided entertainment in the form of hip-hop dancers. In addition, “Poetic Vibes” showcased a performer who, as a hip-hop artist by nature, was able to combine rap and song into the delivery of his poem.
During the event, performers touched upon some sensitive topics including sexual abuse, abandonment and police brutality.
“The importance of these events is having a conversation about things that are hard,” said Ebony Tutora of Binghamton, founder of Queens Recognize Queens. “I have a unique story. I think everybody has a unique story.”
Khadijah Hamilton, a local resident, delivered a piece on her experience as a Muslim woman. The poem contained statements like “they labeled us the mad black woman, and you know what, they were onto something.” The piece was critical of the societal stigmas surrounding black women as well as those who wear hijabs.
“Sometimes I’m not good at talking to people so it’s easy to just write it down; you can say how you feel — what you want to say — without feeling like someone’s going to judge you, and then eventually share it,” Hamilton said.
Regarding this issue of confidence, Tutora had a lot to say. She spoke about making videos on Facebook as a means of promoting her brand, but something about performing in a room full of “live and well people,” she said, seems to boost her confidence.
“I look to Will Smith, he said, ‘Do it afraid;’ you have to always do it afraid,” Tutora said. “That’s how you grow.”
While the event did often feature an emotional vibe, it was broken up by comedic and light moments, with poems titled “Love at first Snapchat,” “Add Me” and “Subtweet.”
The event consisted of scheduled performers, followed by an open-mic section for those feeling spontaneous.
Mornee Curry, a 17-year-old local resident, performed personal poems. She described the experience as inspiring.
“[This event] really helps people express themselves and listen to others,” Curry said. “You get ideas from listening to other people.”
The audience fostered a community vibe, cheering on a poet when he forgot the last half of his piece and a young performer when her music stopped playing. Audience members at Strange Brew were active participants in each other’s empowerment through the arts.
“Art is a really great form of expression,” said Elyssa Diamond, a junior double-majoring in English and human development. “Just having an environment like this that’s so open, that people can just come and speak their minds [in] is really important especially in terms of Black History Month because poetry and dancing and music, it’s all so expressive.”
The importance of this event was evident in each poem and each round of applause which ensued thereafter. Tutora and her fellow coordinators are hopeful that this event may become recurrent. She hopes to expand to the student community as well.
“My goal is to network with other organizations,” Tutora said. “I try to network with different organizations within the community to pull their people, so that’s the goal,” Tutora said.