OLAA's Revolutionary Cafe Brings Creativity and Community to the Forefront

This is part of The Gavel's continuing coverage of Black History Month, where we are covering a multitude of events in February that focus on the history of Black students at BC and how they contribute to our collective identity, both in the past and the present.

On Sunday, Feb. 8, the Organization of Latin American Affairs (OLAA) hosted its second Revolutionary Café event of the year. A night of poetry and music, the event brought Boston College students from all over campus together in a celebration of “artistic expression.”

Co-founder of BC Slam Daniel DeLeon, A&S ’15, emceed the event and conveyed his joy over seeing the community come together for a night dedicated to creativity and self-expression. “Because of the competitive nature of this place, we shy away from these opportunities,” said DeLeon. “I’m glad to see we’re taking that progressive step forward.”

Although invitees from other schools were unable to attend due to inclement weather, BC’s artists filled the stage with over an hour of original work.

Steven Guerrero, CSOM ’18, kicked off the night with his piece about his “evolution” into adolescence and adulthood. Later Isaacson Michel, A&S ’17, evoked powerful imagery of his first time in Haiti, contrasting the country’s polluted surroundings with the pure love he found in the presence of the family he had just met. His reiterations of “take me back, take me back,” had the audience missing a family they had never known.

The crowd encouraged poets, snapping along and cheering when novice performers showed signs of nervousness and giving off what DeLeon called “the sexy moans” when poets made a point that resonated.

Musicians also took the stage, performing acoustic guitar solos with coffee shop and 90s vibes.

As the open mic continued, the topics got heavier. One poet compared the ostentatiousness of the new Yankee Stadium to the poverty many New Yorkers face and asked the audience, “Do you know my New York?” Others shared thoughts on sexual assault, female oppression, racial injustice and religious doubts.

Haley Kerr, A&S ’17, BC Slam’s co-founder, performed “Blue Eyes,” a piece laced with raw emotion and delivered with a passion that had the crowd uproarious.

“How often can I water myself down so I’m easier to swallow?” she asked.

Photo courtesy of Night at the Revolutionary Cafe / Facebook

Photo courtesy of Night at the Revolutionary Cafe / Facebook

All of these moving performances led up to the featured poet of the evening, Andres del Castillo. The son of immigrant parents, Castillo is a Boston poet who is active in the social justice scene. His poems often focus on family, poverty, justice and, most often, his migrant mother. Much of his work is heavily politicized and focuses on contemporary social conflict.

Castillo’s performance at Robsham was a testament to these ideals. His first poem focused on immigration as he repeated: “I will look to the margins when I look for justice, and I will find you.”

Castillo also spoke about the creative process itself, performing his “Ode to Writer’s Block.” Talking to the audience, he explained that events like Rev Café are important because they “bring out themes there aren’t really safe spaces for.”

Despite his softer tones earlier in the performance, his final piece, “Bullets and Badges,” brought out the politically-charged, angered discontent indicative of his protest-attending nature. The poem, written on several pieces of paper that Castillo displayed to the audience, was the longest and most powerful.

Talking about the US’s mass incarceration, failed foreign policy and lies about a “melting pot,” Castillo didn’t even turn to his notes as he spouted out his frustrations on stage and invited the audience to see America through his eyes.

Rev Café reminds the BC community that self-expression through poetry and music provides a forum for discussion about the most difficult topics that plague life and society.

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Madeline Cortes