“America sucks” is haphazardly scribbled in chalk on one of the walls in what is considered the hub of creativity at Brandeis. Also known as Chum’s, this small room in the Castle served as the hotspot for a congregation of Brandeis students who anxiously awaited the results of this year’s general election. The feverish anticipation of the outcome showed some donned in all of America’s most patriotic colors, a few others with their laptops propped open to watch the data as it came in and still others who explained their plans to flee the country in the case that a particular candidate won the presidency.
At no other time is an open mic and slam event more relevant than the night of an election as contentious as this one has been. In the wake of an election cycle that has left so many baffled as politics have become more like a form of entertainment rather than a platform to discuss real issues, the performances generated a sense of authenticity and vulnerability that both campaigns lacked.
Brandeis students gathered in a rather informal setting to express their deep seated feelings about a wide range of topics, including social and racial issues, the LGBT+ community, feminism and veterans, and how these issues intersect with the outcome of the election. Hosted by Jack Rubinstein ’20, the event seemed organized and was well-attended.
To start off the night, Arjun Rajan ’20 performed a few of his original songs on a small guitar. With the occasional back-up person to add an extra beat to his piece, the songs each followed a similar sound that was sweet and mellow, even verging on bohemian and alternative. Rajan’s soothing vocals, rhythmic guitar playing and thought-provoking lyrics fused together in perfect harmony. He performed four songs during his bit, much to the audience’s pleasure. Where Rajan seeks to gain some improvement, however, is to find better ways to close his pieces so as to polish their finale.
A poem that dealt directly with her feelings about Trump, a Brandeis student used this medium to elucidate her absolute terror of the implications that arise given a Trump presidency. One of the highlights of the night, she eloquently went through each part of her experience and identity as a member of the LGBT+ community, a person of color, a woman and as a person who comes from a family of veterans. She poignantly ended the altogether impactful poem with the hard-hitting line, “He has belittled every aspect of my identity.” She warmed up to the mic as she got farther into her well-composed piece, which reached a climax when she passionately recounted her disgust at Trump’s belief that he is privy to women’s bodies without their consent.
A memorable performer, Jordan Mudd ’20, sang two song covers, Bob Marley’s “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” and Amos Lee’s “Learned A Lot.” With the gentle strumming of the guitar in the background, Jordan’s vocals were impeccably suave, bursting with strong breath support as he reached every note as though gliding from one cloud to the next. Mudd’s mantra was to stay positive in times like these, and he asked for audience participation. The songs were almost dripping with a bluesy jazz funk that was irresistible.
Sophia Massidda ’20 performed an enraged yet dignified reading of a poem that explored what it’s like to be a woman today, using her own personal experience to criticize society at large. Her presence on the stage most certainly further drove home her intense points. Massidda was one of the strongest performers because of her careful attention to her tone, body movements and gestures. She spoke strongly about the dichotomy that exists between how she feels about a certain topic and how she presents her feelings on that subject when in the presence of a man. Instead of confronting the issue, she’ll oftentimes let it slip by, begging the question why she keeps “making someone else’s life easier? Why can’t I stop?”
One of the last performances of the open mic part of the event, Savannah Edmondson ’20 did a powerful rendition of Tucker Bryant’s “Oreo,” a poem that is so lyrically striking and beautiful in its critique of white privilege that it hurts. A perfectly crafted metaphor, the idea is that when individuals eat an oreo, oftentimes they eat the creme in the middle and throw away the chocolate cookie parts. By the end of the heart-wrenching piece, the line that took my breath away the most was, “What makes you think that the best I could be is a reflection of you?”
One of the microphones was falling apart, which prompted someone in the audience to comment that that was a metaphor for our country. On a brighter note, the event was amazing in that it was conducive to imaginative work, featuring mainly poetry and some musical performances. One thing remains certain—during times of great distress and anxiety, artistic expression within a community is the best remedy.