Slammin’ Jammin’

Megan Ruxton

Standing just over 5 feet tall, Stacey Ann Chin filled the room. Her voice, charged with emotion, commanded the attention of the nearly 100 people clustered in the Sun Room of the Memorial Union. Constantly moving, her body illustrated her pain and her joy. She electrified the room with her performance art known as slam poetry, one of the crossover activities in honor of both Women’s Week and National Coming Out Week.

“This is me, this is what I know and it comes from the heart,” Chin told the crowd. “My poetry is who I am, and here I can share myself with you.”

Chin began her performance by giving a synopsis of her own life. Born out of wedlock in Montigo Bay, in the western part of Jamaica, she grew up not knowing her mother and receiving only financial support from her already-married father. She attended only the best private religious schools up through high school.

She immigrated to the United States because she was a lesbian, something outlawed in Jamaica. Coming to the United States seemed like the best step for her because of the country’s trademark open-mindedness and diversity. Still she was on the outside as a black foreigner. Despite any negative feelings she may have, Chin was able to display a biting sense of humor about her life. She made light of many of her more difficult situations, satirically mentioning the small-town atmosphere of Ames and her slight nervousness about any conservatives in the crowd.

Having become more comfortable with those in the audience, Chin launched into her first piece about what she believes in.

Full of both sharp humor and bitterness, she spoke of her feelings about America’s diversity, with its sporadic pockets of hypocrisy. The poem provoked laughter with its references to well-known icons in American entertainment.

She mentioned “Sesame Street’s” Bert and Ernie being straight and just not having “found the right girl.”

She also poked fun at Oprah’s and Rosie O’Donnell’s talk show abilities.

Filled with a refreshing candidness and powerful emotion, Chin’s other pieces kept the audience spellbound. Her thrashing movements sliced the air in time to the rhythm of her voice as she described the longing she felt when she thought of Jamaica.

She spoke of hypocrisy, racism and stained innocence with such emotion her whole body trembled.

Power seemed to emanate from her into the crowd, and an audible chill rippled through each row of the audience.

It was very apparent that she felt she had made a connection with the audience, as she walked up and down the rows and behind the last row of chairs.

Every few feet, she stopped and made eye contact with someone in the audience.

“If I can be comfortable and communicate with you, perhaps you’ll be able to better understand my words,” Chin said, speaking to one individual at a time. “And then you can find your own.”