MacSlams, Macalester’s performance poetry group, held an event on Saturday, Nov. 14 featuring slam poet Loyce Gayo and several Macalester students.
Gayo is originally from Tanzania before she moved to the U.S., where she studied African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas, Austin (UTA). There, she performed at UTA’s slam space and cites a previously featured poet of MacSlams, Ariana Brown, as a friend and inspiration. Her work has been featured in Button Poetry, Write About Now Poetry, and PBS. She currently teaches creative writing.
Calling in from Houston via Zoom, Gayo performed several of her pieces at the event: “Shopping While Black,” “In Memory of Royal Murders,” and “How We Forget.” Gayo focuses on her identity both as an immigrant and as a woman of color in much of her work.
Gayo wrote “Shopping While Black” after having been assumed to be part of a gang when a white woman saw her dancing because of a sale.
“[Texas is] very diverse, but also very racist,” Gayo said. “Everybody is Black in Tanzania…Learning about Blackness and womanhood in the US is hard to get used to.”
Gayo said she did not know the history of Tanzania until she came to the US. She wrote “In Memory of Royal Murders” about the colonization that was effectuated by King Leopold II in the Congo, Winston Churchill in Kenya and Cecil Rhodes in South Africa. Gayo said she dealt with her rage by writing this poem, which reimagines continental Africa’s history.
“To come here and learn the nuances of it all, it really blew my mind. I was angry, mad angry. The colonists – what if they died horrific deaths?” Gayo said.
“It was really powerful bringing up more recent historical figures and people whose deaths aren’t talked about enough,” MacSlams leader Anna Švercl Hetzer ’23 reflected following the livestream.
Gayo also discussed poet Patrice Lumumba, the first Prime Minister of the Independent Republic of the Congo, who transfigured the Congo from a Belgian colony to an independent country.
“Artists and movements inform each other,” Gayo said.
The MacSlams meeting was hosted by Alice Asch ’22 and Anna Švercl Hetzer ’23. Audrey McGuinness ’24 performed before Loyce was introduced. Students Siri Greene ’24 and Cora Lewis ’24 each performed two of their poems as well, all to a supportive Zoom audience.
“It’s been wonderful to create communal artistic spaces with our slams, especially during this lonely time,” Asch said. “At the beginning of the year, we were definitely concerned about how to replicate the experience of a poetry slam virtually, but we’ve been so grateful to all the students who’ve shown up to perform and support us. It’s not the same as being in person, but it’s still so much fun.”
Email MacSlams for submissions or questions at [email protected]