Through words of encouragement from the audience, students from many different backgrounds shared short stories and poems about identity, culture, family, love, race, and language at the “Expresión” open mic this past Friday, Feb. 1 in Dodge 501.
Quarto, the creative writing department's official undergraduate literary magazine, partnered with Alianza—a student organization that welcomes anyone with Latin heritage, regardless of their nationality, or anyone connected to the Latinx community—to host an evening of self-reflection and community building.
Aptly titled “Expresión,” which translates to “expression” in English, Quarto and Alianza’s collaboration focused on Latinx voices but provided a platform for anyone who wished to share what the word “identity” means to them.
In an interview with Spectator, Quarto Editors-in-Chief Priya Pai, CC ’20, and Cameron Lee, CC ’20, and Community Outreach Editor Nick Gauthier, CC ’21, discussed the purpose and significance of the open mic.
Pai talked about how “Expresión” contributes to the fulfillment of one of their goals for the literary magazine: to ensure that students of all identities can freely express themselves and share their creative writings.
“This year, Quarto has been committed to issues of diversity and providing a platform for voices that aren’t usually given [one],” Pai said.
Gauthier, who also manages community outreach for Alianza, was the one who suggested that Quarto partner with Alianza to help solidify this platform.
“I thought a way to fulfill [my] role would be to bring [Quarto and Alianza] together, because I feel like a lot of [Latinx] students have things that they write or thoughts and, in a place like Columbia, often question their identity,” Gauthier said. “And we have the space to make them feel welcome.”
Gauthier also talked about how the event itself was meant to create awareness for the literary magazine’s welcoming and open space.
“We really try to welcome everyone, so I thought that maybe having an event that made it explicit would help [the Latinx community] become aware of what Quarto is and be encouraged to submit. And there was a good turnout,” Gauthier said.
The audience filled the room, and many students stood up to read, sharing invaluable parts of their lives, or supported those who did.
Pai and Lee concluded the event by encouraging all to submit their poetry, prose, or art for the magazine’s Spring 2019 print edition by Friday, Feb. 15.
“We just wanted to have more collabs with different groups on campus because often we collaborate with other literary magazines, but there are all sorts of groups of people who write and have things to read or art to show,” Lee said. “And this is a year we thought we might try to do more outreach like that.”
Judging from this collaboration, in which Latinx and international students shared their stories and poems with vulnerability and courage, this outreach might yield many more opportunities for underrepresented voices on campus to openly express themselves.