By Emily Fearon
Until last week, I was a spoken word poetry virgin. Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration. Spoken word and I had hung out a bit before last Wednesday, and it was fun, but nothing serious. However, on October 15 the beginning of a beautiful and hopefully long term relationship blossomed between us.
Journalists for Human Rights Carleton Student Chapter put on their second annual Rhymes for Rights spoken word event. The spoken word night is a fundraiser for JHR’s international projects happening worldwide. On Wednesday the poems ranged in topic, but the proceeds were all going to fund training for journalists in South Sudan. The goal is to strengthen the media, in terms of the journalist, in South Sudan so they can report on local and national news. This is just one of many projects JHR (as a media development organization) runs, and student chapters, like the one at Carleton, support.
The talent on display last Wednesday came from Carleton students and local poets, each exhibiting an awe-inspiring presentation. Many of the poems were centered on love. There were franc conversations about sex, marriage, broken relationships, unrequited love, and even a love poem written about winter. These balanced nicely with the equally passionate poems about human rights issues. Some of the presenters decried racism, poverty, and apathy, and others called for social justice, a renewed interest in women’s rights, and self-confidence. You were hard pressed to find someone in attendance
that night who wasn’t moved by at least one poet’s words.
The overarching message of the night came from both Kathryn Sheppard and Brandon Wint, the featured speakers. Kathryn had worked at the JHR Head Office in Toronto and on JHR projects overseas. Though she no longer works for JHR, she still spoke proudly of the journalists she met and worked with during her time with the organization. Kathryn believes vehemently in responsible journalism, which entails journalists reporting responsibly, but also extends to journalists holding those in power accountable. The story Kathryn shared was of a foreign government who declared that the
stories written by JHR-trained journalists made them work harder. The journalists put pressure on the government and saw their work make a difference in their country. Seeing results like this encourage us and remind us why we do what we do.
Brandon Wint is an acclaimed Ottawa poet who has traveled across the country with his spoken word, teaches poetry writing, and loves cookies. He shared some of his work at Rhymes for Rights, and the audience loved it. Though not a journalist like Kathryn, Brandon declared that the best journalism is motivated by love. Indeed, he shared his life perspective that everything is for and about love. And there’s something to that.
We need to keep storytelling alive, be it through poetry or through journalism or through our love stories.