If the university doesn’t scour all resources for funding a Def Poetry Jam performance, it will miss an opportunity to engage diverse perspectives.
When representatives from HBO’s popular slam poetry show, Def Poetry Jam, approached SA president Matt Worthington about coming to campus earlier this semester, sadly only a few departments jumped at the chance.
The initial $12,000 quote to bring the group to Abilene pushed the program off the calendars for at least the fall semester.
The edgy slam poetry show could bring some big pop culture names to campus – guest appearances from Dave Chappelle, Alicia Keys, Smokey Robinson and Kanye West suggest the show is no small deal.
Worthington showed Congress a petition Oct. 10 that garnered 800 signatures from students, faculty and staff who support bringing the group to campus – a clear mandate from a community where few events attract more attention and support.
Such widespread support stems from the universal appeal of Def Poetry Jam’s focus on diversity and expression.
In an amiable move, co-founder Bruce George told the Optimist the sometimes-profane group would monitor content in the proposed poetry workshops, panel discussions and performances.
Although content and censorship of a show HBO calls “audacious, uncensored,” concerns administrators, the staggering cost continues to create the largest obstacle.
Def Poetry Jam also demonstrated concerted efforts to accommodate the university, reducing the initial quote to $7,000 to $8,000 dollars.
Now, the theatre, Bible, sociology and English departments are scouring their cut budgets for money, and Congress has discussed appropriating money. As these departments seek funds to bring the group to campus, other departments and organizations on campus should pitch in as well.
With the fall enrollment drop, the university’s overall funding came up $3 million short, leaving departments short of funding. But an $8,000 price tag for Def Poetry Jam becomes less challenging when spread across multiple groups instead of just four or five.
HBO touts Def Poetry Jam performers as the “freshest and most fearless voices in America today,” and if the university desires cultural relevance, the community should hear what such voices have to say.
The group has visited other colleges and universities, among them Butler University in Indianapolis in the 2003-2004 year, as part of its diversity celebration.
Students participate in this cutting-edge “written cure,” for emotional angst, as George describes the slam poetry, and in doing so, welcome performers with an array of ideas.
The university trumpets the 21st Century Vision as ACU aims to become the premiere institution for Christian education – part of which entails providing innovative experiences unprecedented among other Christian universities.
Def Poetry Jam, which is now in its sixth season, offers a chance to explore a progressive venue and accommodate a community eager to engage in dialogue with many views.
Groups and academic departments should appropriate funds and join the push to bring Def Poetry Jam to campus this spring, paving the way for powerful and real dialogue on campus.