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Current Issues Lecture hosts poets as part of annual MLK Jr. tribute

UNH Students, faculty and community members packed the Strafford Room of  the Memorial Union Building (MUB) on Wednesday night for this semester’s first installment of the Current Issues Lecture Series, titled “The Spoken Word of Janae Johnson and Porsha Olayiwola.”

Johnson, a spoken word poet, teaching artist and educator, bases her work out of California. While highlighting the issues of black queerness and black masculinity, Johnson became the 2015 National Poetry Slam Champion as well as the 2015 Women of the World Poetry Slam Champion.

Accompanying Johnson was Chicago South-Side native Porsha Olayiwola. Olayiwola now resides in Boston where she organizes, writes, teaches and participates in slam poetry competitions. According to her website, she “separates herself from the field of issue-based performance poets by applying advanced political analysis to examine injustice while providing perspective on concrete solutions.”

Both poets took turns performing new and routinely rehearsed content, with topics ranging from misogynistic experiences at black barber shops to police shootings in Chicago.

“Today I protest by calling my parents on speakerphone,” said Johnson during her final poem about black pride. “I thank them for raising me on this [Stevie Wonder] music.”

Both Johnson and Olayiwola left the audience impassioned as almost every stanza was met with “snaps,” the standard applause during slam poetry sessions.

“I thought it was very powerful,” said sophomore anthropology and international affairs dual major Julia Paddock. “There was a lot of emotion and they really connected with me.”

Johnson and Olayiwola’s performances were part of the 27th annual UNH Martin Luther King Jr. Tribute, “Art as Resistance and Remembrance.”

On Sunday, Feb. 19, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, located at 30 Madbury Road in Durham, will host the MLK Spiritual Celebration from 4 to 5 p.m. to remember those who have worked to build the community that MLK dreamed about.

Additionally, Ken Nwadike, CEO of Superhero Events and creator of the Free Hugs Project, will be in the MUB Strafford Room on Wednesday, Feb. 22, from 7 to 8 p.m. to discuss his efforts in fundraising for homeless student athletes.

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