The Hinman College Council brought Anthony Ragler, a nationally acclaimed poet, to campus Sunday to share his experiences as a writer and discuss how stereotypes affect the way people perceive others.
The 20-year-old poet from Brooklyn placed third with his poetry team in a national slam poetry competition called Brave New Voices. Ragler has also worked with the United Nations on using art as a bridge between generations. He is going to Sri Lanka in May as a board member for a U.N. conference to discuss art and alternative families.
Ragler, who participated in a workshop titled “Identity and Definitions,” discussed the common experience of stereotypes and how perceptions shape expression in art.
“Even if you’re not a poet or you’re not an artist, everyone has an identity and you can write something if you have some type of pull coming out of yourself to do so,” Ragler said.
Ragler led the audience through exercises designed to generate discussion on stereotypes and perception. He had audience members sit with people they did not know and write some characteristics about the person sitting across from them based solely on their appearance.
He used two examples to demonstrate how stereotypes influence expression: the poem “White Boy” by Jon Sanders and the song “Good Kid” by Kendrick Lamar.
After analyzing these examples, Ragler provided the audience with prompts to generate their own poems based on how others perceived them during the first exercise and the stereotypes that they have frequently encountered.
Amenzesiofo Uzamere, a sophomore majoring in chemistry, read her poem to the audience.
“Being able to share is very freeing,” Uzamere said. “It was a good experience, filled with encouraging people.”
Ragler also performed some of his own work. In keeping with the theme of identity and definitions, one of his poems addressed the trial and ultimate acquittal of George Zimmerman following the death of Trayvon Martin, and how it affected Ragler’s identity as a black male.
Alex Leiss, a junior double-majoring in cinema and studio art, said Ragler’s performance was impressive and moving.
“The passion that he had while performing really just got to me,” Leiss said.
Shaylan Meyer, a sophomore double-majoring in biology and English, said she was inspired by Ragler’s performance.
“I could tell that he was very emotionally connected to his poems,” Meyer said. “It reminded me that the best part of my poetry is whatever I’m emotionally connected to.”
After attending the workshop, Uzamere said she felt she could strengthen her writing from the practices she learned.
“I feel that I would be able to put more of myself into my writing, whether it’s a research paper or a reflection,” Uzamere said. “It would help me identify with what I’m trying to do.”
Stephon Martin, a junior double-majoring in political science and history, a member of the Hinman College Council and the organizer of the event, said he considered the workshop a success.
“The more people we can get involved with this, the more people we can share our passion with, the better,” Martin said. “If we can change one person’s outlook on poetry or on life in general, or get someone to write in this form of expression, we’ve done our job.”