When asked why she decided to write, science fiction author Octavia Butler simply responded, “I just knew there were stories I wanted to tell.” Six Wentcher Scholars shared their stories during Wentcher’s first virtual literary and spoken word night. Called “POW: the Power of Words,” Scholars treated us to their words from a variety of genres including rap, visual art, poetry, and readings from a self-authored and illustrated published children’s book. The topics were as diverse as their works including thoughts about identity, personal journeys, and struggles, and a “love letter” of sorts to books, reading and Paris.
Abigail Afriyie, a senior from the School of the Art Institute, kicked off the evening by presenting her work “The Old and the New” from her larger art exhibition called “Rebirth Through the Light.” The work combined prose, art and dance in a video that explored Abigail’s personal journey in her Christian faith. One viewer praised Abigail’s multimedia work by noting that “your pairing of visual and performative art is amazing!”
Knox College sophomore Mónica Sanchez presented next. Her poem, “El Amor de mi Nombre,” (The Love of My Name) reflected her journey to embrace her name, a name steeped in family, heritage, and culture, and helped build her pride in her Latina identity. While Mónica’s piece was not visual, her words provided the context that allowed viewers to “see” the meaning of her poem. One viewer remarked, “The imagery included in your poem was top notch. I could really visualize everything you were saying.”
Columbia College Chicago first-year student Andres Rios rap video “Wings” was a meditation on the healing power of music. Produced as the duo RYO, Andres collaborated with a friend “Black Yoshi” to complete the work. Andres noted that the song was about “finding wings to carry us out of the struggle we find ourselves in through music.” Andres sees “Wings” as an outgrowth of his love for the creative. “I just love creating things, being able to make something out of nothing is beautiful…” One viewer called vibes of the song, “immaculate” while another praised the video and the artists. View the video at https://youtu.be/Us3BrxunrlM.
Augustana College senior Robert Martin wrote about his first love and Loyola University Chicago junior, Dakota Lane shared a deeply personal piece called “Cough Syrup” that contained the recurring even haunting line, “Here, this I’ll make you feel better.” Dessi Vasevski and her friend, Ilenia Costa read an excerpt from their children’s book “Ilenia and Dessi Meet Jean the Bookseller.” Dessi, a Scholar from Northeastern Illinois University, is currently working in Paris as an English assistant. In the book, Jean takes two sisters on an adventure through Paris and emphasizes the power of books. Ilenia read an excerpt in which Jean talks about his lifelong love of books. Jean reminisced, “These books are my only company. When I was a child, I could think reading would turn me into an adult. But now that I am old, I read books to escape to the lighthearted days of my childhood.” Their presentation included paper cut-out stop motion animation which one viewer, who is an art student, appreciated as “beloved.”
We appreciate the artists who shared their work for POW and are looking forward to next year’s event.