International spoken word artist Gabriela Garcia Medina performed her award-winning slam poetry Thursday night for UT students in kick-start of her national, month-long tour celebrating Women’s History Month.
Medina, who was named Spoken Word Poet of the Year in 2011, talked to students about topics ranging from feminist struggles and cultural barriers to a disastrous romantic dinner gone wrong and her love for lingerie.
“I don’t only address womanhood issues,” Medina said. “Just by the mere fact that I am a woman, it doesn’t matter if I’m talking about politics or bathrooms or whatever, that is already feminist. It makes everyone bear witness to my story, which doesn’t happen as often as it should.”
Just as in her choice of poetic topics, the Cuban poet is hesitant to restrict herself to one art form, as well.
“I call myself an artist because I don’t like to limit myself to just the poetry and writing,” Medina said. “I feel what makes my work so unique is that I incorporate performance, acting, story telling and all these other forms of art as well. If I could involve dancing I would!”
The evening began with a performance of a piece called “The World’s Greatest Magician,” in which she reflected upon growing up in a poor, immigrant family in London. Despite struggles to keep enough food on the table, Medina recalled fondly that there was never a lack of magic in her home.
“And we are not happy to be poor, but we are happy despite our poverty,” she said on stage, reciting in a style of poetry unique for its hip-hop and R&B influences. “We are not excited by our life struggles, but we are excited to be alive. ’Cause we are magicians, making the impossible, possible.”
Medina encouraged the audience to partake in her poetry by letting it be known when a particular verse resonated with them. Snapping fingers and laughter filled the UC auditorium for the next hour, as the poet wove through a selection of her work.
The performance culminated with Medina opening the stage to student poets in the audience.
“I was very impressed with her,” Brittney Woods, freshman in food science, said. She followed Medina’s appeal and took to the stage.
“I wasn’t even going to get up there at first,” Woods said, “but she made the environment so welcoming and inviting and that I was like, OK, I’m going to go up there even though I’ve never done this before.”
Woods, who performed a piece about a recent breakup, felt that the evening had “a wonderful turnout.”
“I feel like everyone was able to gain something from the message that Gabriela taught us,” Woods said.
Corey “Legend” Hope, a fellow freshman and impromptu performer, shared Woods’ admiring view.
“Gabriela was amazing,” Hope said. “I always look forward to different stage poets because to me, they each have a different perspective and a different style. I’m always willing to learn from a different poet and she definitely taught me.”
For Medina, who “thrives” at the opportunity to inspire and be inspired in her work, the evening was a success.
“I just want to share my truth with the audience,” Medina said. “That’s all I want — connections, and for myself to be validated in my experiences and themselves to be validated in their experiences in the process as well.”
The performance was the first in a series of festivities hosted by the Women’s Coordinating Council in honor of its self-dubbed “Women’s HERstory” month. The next event is a lecture by Jennifer L. Pozner, author of “Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV,” about the harmful effects of reality television on women’s self image. The presentation will be held in the UC Auditorium on March 13 at 7 p.m.