Oluwajoba Ogun | Correspondent

On Oct. 15, 2019, the Multicultural Student Affairs (MSA) hosted an open mic night as the last event for Latinx Heritage Month. The guest speakers, BloomHomie, a group of Latino men that advocate the importance of redefining what it means to be masculine, shared their own experiences through a handful of talents: poems, songs, beatboxing and encouraged the audience to do the same.

The theme of the night stressed the current issues with being a young Latino in the US – from the racial divide of the Latino community as well as different ethnic groups to the pressure of emphasizing men’s role in the family, this occasion highlighted the importance of self-expression.

The night started with introductions, as the Assistant Director of Community Outreach and Engagement and the Chair of Latinx Heritage Month, Marcella Torres-Cervantes, introduced the members of the group as well as giving an opening as to what the purpose of the event was.

“I would like to take a moment to honor the land beneath us,” Torres-Cervantes said. “The land that NC State University sits on is land that was originally stewarded by two indigenous tribes. We honor these tribes today by recognizing that this institution of higher education is built on land stolen from those who were here before the colonizers arrived…We must acknowledge the history of the spaces and places we occupy to both understand and unlearn the many ways we have been socialized. It is an honor to stand before you today as we celebrate ethnicities, heritage, histories and cultures at the university.”

Rudy Torres, one of the BloomHomies, went on to be the Master of Ceremonies (MC) of the event as he elaborated on the work he does and the significance it brings to the Latino community.

“I hold open mics all over LA county, in communities where we don’t really have access to many art programs and opportunities, so it’s a great pleasure that we do that here today with you,” Torres said. “Tonight is really about you…there’s a lot of people in the room that have a lot of things to say about their Latin existence.”

The open mic portion of the event began as students who signed up were called on to showcase their talent with their intended message.

James Daniels, a third-year majoring in middle-school language arts and social studies education, was the first to go. He performed his poems and showcased his raps.

His poem, ‘Hammerhead’ details the ongoing racial and political issues that are continuously brought to the forefront of America.

“Listen, I am still forced to be the mediator,” Daniels said, “I am the hammerhead that sees both sides so it makes sense that I missed the red flags in front of me because of the bullsh*t that I’m made to see.”

Next to perform was Mateo Gill, one of the BloomHomies.

Gill is a community organizer and men-circle facilitator. He dedicates his work to men matching their minds with their hearts so that they can return to their truths.

He showcased his message through poetry and beatboxing.

His first poem, ‘Depression’ focused on his childhood and how he dealt with many emotions and how he learned how to handle them.

“When I was younger I was like a really depressed kid and I had a lot of anger, a lot of sadness and what I realized over the years is that like failure to manage emotions can be the difference between living and dying,” Gill said.

“It feels like my life is pointless, meaningless, no longer worth it,” Gill said. “Should I continue to fight, or should I just forfeit…When the monster grows, I’ll feed it to my ego, become the dark version of myself and be the hero.”

Madison Darley, a first year majoring in engineering, recited her poem about real love.

“I’m not scared of commitment, I’m scared of attachment,” Darley said. “I’m scared of being left when you’re all I have left…I was taught that real love is when you can stand all types of weather, but you left when you heard the thunder and now that makes me wonder if you were ever for real. Real love is just surreal. Young love that was all a dream. Now I know everything isn’t as good as it seems”

Kailee Storie, a first year studying agricultural education, felt inspired by the open mic performances.

“I really liked the open mic portion,” Storie said. “It was very inspiring. It made me really appreciate everything and understand it a little bit better.”

Morgan Yorton, a first-year studying elementary education also commented on the open mic acts.

“I really liked being able to have my mind opened up to a part, and to an aspect of something that I’ve never experienced or lived,” Yorton said. “So it was really nice to see other people’s experiences and what they have gone through, lived through and survived.”

Raniah Jealys, a fourth-year majoring in business education and finance said:

“I thought it was really important for the Latinx community because I think there’s a lot of things we always feel, but we never like really want to talk about so this open mic night was just a chance for us to really speak and get our words out,” Jealys said. “This is not something just in my head, this is something that everyone else in this community is feeling and it kinda just brings us a lot closer, more like tight knit and I just like, love that.”

Nicole Lopez, a third-year majoring in social work spoke about how she loved the authenticity in the performances.

“I really loved the ability for people to take up space, and just be real and vulnerable in front of an audience that some people understood — some people may have never been exposed to that kind of performance before,” Lopez said. “But I thought it was so important for people to really see the Latinx and the other communities — whoever just wanted to perform talk about what they needed to talk about.”

Chyra Savage, a fourth-year majoring in computer engineering shared new things that she learned coming to the event.

“I would say sharing stories, being able to just hear about people…to hear something different… getting to hear about Latinx people and their community,” Savage said.

To close up the event, Figgy Baby, one of the three BloomHomies, who is an international Latinx rapper and performer who uses music to help others recognize their identity and truth as evolving parts of life, performed melodies of his hits, getting the crowd involved as he occasionally pointed the mic to them, encouraging them to sing along.

“I hope that people see that men can be different.” Figgy Baby said “That men don’t necessarily have to be this traditional toxic person. We can be healthy versions in community, with our friends, with our family”

Torres ended the night with a heartfelt message to Latino men about the importance of opening up and deconstructing toxic masculinity.

“We can be emotional, we can be vulnerable, we can be open about things with our loved ones, with our homies” Torres said.