DMACC Hosts Black History Month Poetry Event

Flyer for the poetry event held on Feb. 24, 2021.

Members of DMACC and the greater Des Moines area performed their own poetry to the DMACC community in celebration of Black History Month during a live event on Feb. 24.  

The hour-long event was hosted by the DMACC Office of Community & Global Engagement and the DMACC Diversity Commission on Zoom and featured seven performers including professors, staff, college students and students from Des Moines Public Schools. The event was free and open to the public.  

DMACC sophomore Makai Muhammad began the event, performing “Half History Month,” a love poem called “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before,” and “Promise Land,” which featuresinging in addition to spoken word 

Muhammad said he felt his performance went well, but it was different performing over Zoom. As all life is with the pandemic, it felt kind of strange. Doing spoken word without an audience in front of me made it so I can’t hear reactions or see body language,” Muhammad said. “I tried my best to act like everyone was truly in the room with me. 

Muhammad said this event was a great opportunity to share his voice and viewsOne reason I love poetry is because it allows me to have a voice as a person of color. I feel every Black voice should be heard, so I try to make mine heard in the spaces I’m in,” Muhammad said.  

Muhammad’s performance was followed by Kai Brown, a junior from Roosevelt High School reciting “Fighting for the Same Hands That Kill You,” North High graduate Karriem Muhammad reading “2020,” and Lincoln High School junior Zakiya McPherson sharing a recorded performance 

DMACC Adjunct Professor Kimberlee Gregory then recited her piece titled “I Can’t Breathe.” Gregory said this was her first time sharing her poetry.  

“I just started writing poetry in late March and early April 2020. ​For my first time, I felt that it went ok. I was really nervous,” Gregory said.  

Gregory said she loves the escape that poetry offers her. I have found that by writing poetry I am able to get outside of me and things that are going on in and around me. It allows me a mental break from reality, but also allows me to get out all that I carry on the inside,” Gregory said.  

The event concluded with performances from DMACC employee Lenny Bell reciting three of his poems and Nicole Stepleton-Hardin sharing a recorded performance.  

DMACC Academic Advisor and Diversity Commission member Karen Webb served as Master of Ceremonies for the event. Webb said she helped come up with the idea for the event and was happy with how it went.  

The performers were so brave to come forward and share their stories through poetry. They were deeply personal and moving. We were very lucky to have each of them participate,” Webb said.  

Makai Muhammad said he was also pleased with the outcome of the poetry event. “I liked to see multiple levels of our community attending, participating, and initiating this type of event. It showed me that other people do want to hear our voices from within the community,” said Muhammad 

Gregory said she appreciated the wide variety of talent featured by the live event. I loved all the different talent that was showcased during this event. It provided space for people from different generations to come together and share their talents,” said Gregory 

Muhammad said he hopes the event made a lasting impact. “I hope it caused people to reflect and maybe have the confidence to do more or say more when it counts. Voices matter, every one of them,” said Muhammad. “Not every poem may change a worldview or strike a profound chord, but if you strike enough notes eventually you might.” 

Both the participants and organizers said they are excited about the future of this event.  

Muhammad said, “I hope there are more events like this. I hope more people attend the next one, and the next and the next.”  

Webb said she hopes to host a similar event again later this year. 

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