“Get Out the Vote” Encourages voter participation

“Get Out the Vote” held an Open Mic Night that took place Nov. 1 in Carole Chapel at Washburn. It was hosted by Sigma Tau Delta, the international English honor society.

The event encouraged people to vote in the upcoming Nov. 6 election through short stories, poetry, standup comedy and other forms of spoken word.

Annette Billings was a guest speaker at the Open Mic Night. She was invited by Anna Ciummo, a senior English major, who is the president of Sigma Tau Delta.

“I am excited to attend the Open Mic,” said Annette Billings. “It’s important to vote now.”

Billings is an African-American Kansas poet, playwright, actress and nurse. She attends events where she can share her poetry and prose. She has written two collections of poetry, one-act plays and numerous short stories.

The Open Mic Night began with a poetry reading by Billings.

Her poem began with, “What do you do if you find yourself just shine like a star?”

This question led to some thoughts about life and value. The short poem was about the recovery of power in life. A small star still shines. Everyone could find their own place and be a star in life.

In the process of reading and sharing poetry, people change their attitudes from a victim stance to a survivor stance. Instead of defeated by their problems, they can begin to feel empowered by them. Many express their thoughts through things like poetry.

“Poetry serves as a reminder of what’s important in life,” said Billings. “It says a lot with a minimum of words.”

The event encouraged people to vote by sharing different kinds of poetry. Poetry allows people to know about social actions in a concise, yet complex way. Poetry is a short story, so people will pay attention to it. However, poetry allows authors to say a lot with few words.

“Poetry may not be directed to voting,” said Billings. “It’s about social issues and living the best life.”

Sharing poetry at the event, people explored the meaning and attitude of life. At the same time, they learned more about social issues and their responsibility in stopping them. Everyone has the right and responsibility to vote and share their voice on issues that plague society.

Poetry also reminds people of the importance of art. 

“Poetry is not extra, but it’s an essential part of living.” Billings said.

Some poetry lovers came to the “Get Out the Vote” Open Mic Night and brought words that they wanted to share.

“I am always excited to attend any celebration of language and creative writing,” said Andy Farkas, an assistant professor of the English department.

Farkas shared two pieces of prose at the end of the event. He read a segment of Laird Hunt’s novel, “The Exquisite.” He also read a piece of flash fiction by Mark Leyner, called “The Suggestiveness of One Stray Hair in an Otherwise Perfect Coiffure.”

“In poetry, opinions can be different or simulating,” said Billings. “Poetry is meaningful. There are variety of readers and we can variety of poetry.”

Billings encourages people to try different kinds of poetry and find a thing that they have connection with. Poetry lovers can invite people in their circle to some literature events.

Sigma Tau Delta, the host of the event, is active in both Washburn and Topeka communities. Members volunteer to host and organize literary projects and events of their own. They promote and support literature and the arts.

“Get Out the Vote” Open Mic Night encouraged everyone to be a voter in the 2018 election. Don’t forget to vote on Nov. 6.