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January 17, 2013 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 2013-01-17

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2B - Thursday, January17, 2013

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

duty to empower

Former 'U' student Mike Rosen experienced his first poetry slam at the University and was inspired to start a slam program at Wesleyan University
Bri ging slam back to U

U-M Poetry returns
to the campus scene
after long hiatus
Daily Arts Writer
Google "Def Jam Poetry" and
watch some of the videos that
come up. You'll see various poets
performing, speaking of race,
gender, identity and love, both
in humor and in complete seri-
ousness. Occasionally, you'll find
an appearance by Kanye West
or DMX. The nature of spoken-
word performance is debatable,
and even more up in the air is its
origin. Poets can even look as far
back into history as Sappho of
Lesbos, typically depicted with a
lyre in hand.

In the 1980s, a phenomenon
within the world of spoken word
took form with the advent of the
slam poetry competition. The
format was simple: Poets would
perform a two- to three-minute
piece before an audience and five
judges selected from within that
audience. Slam poetry became
its own culture with its own
traditions: booing bad scores,
praising good ones and gener-
ally encouraging the performer
when you like his or her piece by
snapping or shouting the occa-
sional "preach!" and "mmm."
From its humble Chicago ori-
gins, slam poetry spread across
the nation, evolving into a much
greater cultural event.
On Jan. 12, the University
Poetry Club hosted a slam com-
petition in the Union. Spon-

sored by the Center for Campus
Involvement, U-M Poetry Club
- once known as U-Club Poet-
ry - provides slam competi-
tions and open-mic formats for
aspiring poets at the University.
Saturday's event was the grand
slam, where poets competed for
a position on -the University's
national slam team. About 100
students attended, providing
energy and enthusiasm that per-
meated the packed room.
Engineering sophomore Wil-
liam Royster and LSA freshman
Mimi Norwood are two of the
poets who made the national
team. For Royster, this was his
first performance in a slam for-
mat and his first appearance at a
U-M Poetry event.
"It was a great crowd," Roys-
ter said. "Sometimes you get dull

crowds, and it can really harm
your performance."
"It was just an easy crowd to
go up in front of," Norwood said.
Last year, however, things
were a little different for U-M
"By the end of last year, we
had an attendance of 15 people,"
said LSA junior Alexander Pan.
"It's not anyone's fault really; it
was just poor organization from
Pan joined the group last win-
ter when numbers were dwin-
dling, and since then, he has
been spearheading the effort to
revitalize the group.
"If the students don't show
interest, we're clearly not meant
to be funded and be a club here,"
Pan said.

ticular individual or issue was
through writing. During high
A rtlstschool, OyamO was known for
writing letters to the editor of his
h local newspaper regarding his
Snapsnot opinions about issues in his com-
munity, politics and controversial
Daily Arts gets up topics, all of which were pub-
lished in print.
close and personal His growing desire to delve
with a notable artist into fiction originated from his
grandfather, a preacher at the'
community church.
O yam"I had always enjoyed the sto-
ries that my grandfather would
tell us about the old days in the
South," OyamO said. "In school,
"Believe it or not - I've come to I always enjoyed the English and
believe at this age - human beings literature courses and soon, I got
are basically the lowest animals to a point when I began to enjoy
on this earth, and the reason why writing my own stories."
I say that is because I know that An associate professor in
human beings don't feel that way," the School of Music, Theatre &
OyamO said. Dance and writer-in-residence at
A prominent influence in the the University, OyamO received
growing canon of African-Amer- his Master of Fine Arts from the
ican literature, playwright Oya- Yale School of Drama. His writ-
mO's (Charles F. Gordon) work ing. focuses on the struggles of
captures historical events in a new people of color in America, espe-
light. ciallythose whose voices are often
"All writers have their own rea- ignored by society. His plays bring
sons for writing. For me, I think forth controversial topics in poli-
I want to go for something that tics, race and societal classes.
causes discomfort. But discomfort "We have religion, we have
towards something good," he said. technology, we have all of these
Born in Ohio in 1943 and raised things - and yet here we are,"
with six siblings, OyamO recog- OyamO said. "We . fight each
nized his love for writing at an other over territory, over natural
early age. As a child, he learned resources, over religion, over eth-
the best way to express his feel- nicity. I mean, we have weapons
ings and opinions about a par- right now that could wipe out all

Over the past few weeks,
India has been talked
about in the news for
one of the worst possible rea-
sons. On Dec. 16, a 23-year-old
woman was
raped by six
men on a
public bus
and abused
so severely
that she died
in the hos-
pital 13 days
later. These PROMA
events have KHOSLA
put a harsh
spotlight on
the way Indian culture treats
women and the deep-seated
misogyny for which an entire
nation must answer.
This is supposed to be my
fun Bollywood column where
I talk about singing and danc-
ing and ask why there's always
so much wind blowing in the
lead actress's face. But anyone
who has ever taken a humani-
ties class - or to be slightly less
pretentious, anyone who has
ever engaged with pop culture
- knows that the media has an
undeniable influence in shaping
a society's attitudes and actions.
Since we're on the subject of
women, the easiest example of
screen trends shaping cultural
values is in female body image.
Women in the media are notori-
ously taller and thinner than
their audience counterparts,
but since the faces and bodies
of models and actresses are the
images bombarding our eyes
on a daily basis, they become
ingrained in the collective
consciousness of society. We've
started to accept them as nor-
India is no exception to the
tricks of the media trade. Despite
its reputation asa third-world
countryrooted in ancient cus-
toms, it's a nation bolting into the
modern era so quickly that the
citizens aren't quite sure how to
balance modernity and tradition.
In my first column, I wrote
about the film "Dilwale Dulhani-
ya Le Jayenge" and mentioned
a specific scene in which the
heroine Simran (Kajol) drinks
alcohol for the firsttime and
wakes up terrified that she might
have slept with Raj (Shahrukh
Khan). He explains indignantly
that he would never do such a
thing because he is an Indian boy
who knows how to respect an
Even with that kind of ide-
alism in popular films, India
has always been a country of
extremes; a country where wom-
en's cultural clothing usually cov-
ers most of the body, but also one
where nothing is said when the
same women are stared at inde-
cently wherever they go; a coun-
try where the celebrated Hindu
goddess Durga single-handedly
defeated a demon, but where mil-
lions of women are still forbidden
from enteringthe workforce.
This is the country where I
was groped on a train the last
time I visited - and when I
immediately told my mother
about it, she said "So?" That's
when itchit home.
My mother, raised ina liberal
home and always encouraged
to follow her dreams and never
pressured into marriage, thought
being grabbed on a train was the

most normal thing in the world.
It was something to be shrugged
off and accepted, andIwas the
one overreacting because some
asshat treated my butt like his
suitcase handle.
The attitudes practiced and
preached in thattouching scene
of DDLJ have longsince vanished

from commercial Bollywood.
The "actresses" - I use quotation
marks because acting is rarely
ever prioritized - have gotten
thinner, lighter and taller. A.
troubling fabric shortage in the
industry has left them with little
to wear besides bikini tops and
booty shorts.
In popular commercial films,
this is the sad restrictive role
to which women are confined.
They allow the plot to progress
by positioning themselves as
romantic or sexual interests,
and the rest of the time they
play dumb and look sexy for all
the voyeurs tired of saris and
respect. Sexuality has always
been an underlying theme in
Bollywood movies;as evidenced
by the extravagant item num-
bers and leading ladies made
famous for their subtle and
unattainable allure.
The recent trend has been
to reclaim the Indian woman's
sexuality, but there is a fine
line between embracing it and
exploiting it. Songs like "Sheila
Ki Jawani" and "Chikni Cha-
meli" push these boundaries.
I love both, and I admire the
attempt (even if it is accidental)
to accept that Indian women
are in control of their sexuality.
Unfortunately, the presenta-
tion does more to objectify than
However, as I said, India is
a land of extremes. So while
the fair and lovely opportun-
ists of the industry gather up
their cleavage for another day
of work, somewhere out in Film
City, there are serious and tal-
ented artists doing incredible
work for Indian women.
Inciting change
would be real
movie magic.
In my last column, I starting
singing my unending praises for
director Vishal Bhardwaj, a man
whose films consistently feature
strong, driven women portrayed
by intelligent and talented
actresses. In "Ishqiya," a 2010
original he co-wrote, the main
woman Krishna (Vidya Balan)
is unapologetic about her lying,
violence and sexuality.
More recently, Balan played
awoman in search of her miss-
ing husband in "Kahaani," a
film that has earned her endless
praise from critics and audiences
- a rare combination of artistic
appreciation and audience accep-
tance. In the end, her character
ends up being an homage to
the goddess Durga, a widowed
mother seeking revenge for her
husband's death in aterrorist
The fact of the matter is that
the media doesn't tell people
what to think; it tells us what to
think about. With so many eyes
from all over the world trained
on the culture that allowed such
violent acts of rape and murder to
ever be committed, the conversa-
tion has finally started.
This columnwas never intend-
ed to be political, but Bollywood
has the power and resources to
overhaul India's treatment of
women. With movies that feature

strong females, healthy gender
dynamics and admirable cultural
values, that change may be pos-
sible. And that would be true
movie magic.
Khosla is watching all of the
Vidya Balan videos. To join,
e-mail pkhosla@umich.edu.

Many of OyamO's plays focus on controversial issues like race, war and class.

of humanity. And then you have
to ask yourself, 'Why do they say
that we are the highest animals on
earth?' I say, 'high on what?"'
OyamO's plays have appeared
on stages across the country. Some
of his best-known works include
"Selfish Sacrifice," "The White
Black Man," "City in a Strait" and
"Sing Jubilee."
His most celebrated achieve-
ments as an eminent playwright
include the 1999 Eric Kocher
Playwrights Award for "The
White Black Man" at the Eugene
O'Neill Theater Center's National
Playwrights Conference of 1998.
OyamO was also awarded a PEW/
TCG Playwright-in-Residence
Fellowship in 2000 at the Phila-
delphia Theatre Company.
OyamO has helped pave the
road for what is becoming a new

theatrical genre with work that,
according to some critics, can dis-
turb even the most impervious
audience members.
"A man is a man, a woman is
a woman and a child is a child,"
Oyamo said. "It's very disturb-
ing to see how these differences
separate us and make us violent
towards each other."
"We have knowledge, technol-
ogy, the ability to explore the uni-
verse," he said. "Then what are we
fighting each other forYouwould
think that by now, we'd figure out
how to live on this earth together."
"When I retire, I want to devote
my full time to dealing with issues
like these in such a way as to pro-
voke thinking about it all, because
again, this is the only home we



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