Latest posts by Amanda Shepard (see all)
- We Need the Poetry of Andrea Gibson Now More Than Ever - January 23, 2018
- 5 YA Authors for Your 2018 Reading List - December 31, 2017
- Asexual Erasure in Television and Film Adaptations - November 26, 2017
This past weekend, I had the privilege of seeing the poet Andrea Gibson perform on the first leg of their Hey Galaxy tour in Detroit. This event kicked off Gibson’s five-month tour for their new album, spanning the United States and Europe. This wasn’t my first time seeing Gibson perform—they performed a few years back at my university. But something stuck with me this time seeing them perform: how important their poetry is in an age where the President of the United States and his administration are actively targeting minority Americans.
The evening started out with a performance by Chastity Brown, a singer-songwriter from Minnesota. Brown set the tone for the evening, ending her performance with a song inspired by an encounter that she had with an alt-right nationalist at one of her last events. Her latest album, Silhouette of Sirens, is inspired by her own struggles, stating: “Just by me being a bi-racial, half-black, half-white woman living in America right now is political. Just being a person of color, a queer woman of color, for that matter, is freaking political.” The political tone of her performance leaked into Gibson’s own poetry.
Gibson opened their event by stating that they’ve been wanting to go on tour constantly for the past year—that they needed to go on tour. Going on tour is their way of speaking out against the hatred the current administration is spewing and letting others in the LGBTQ+ community that they’re not alone. While many of Gibson’s poems speak to their own life experiences as someone who identifies as non-binary, the themes and topics that are presented are universal.
Many of Gibson’s poems touch on social reform, especially surrounding the gender binary, but they don’t stop there when it comes to pointing out injustice. One of the first poems that Gibson read at this event was “Letter to White Queers,” a poem penned in response to racist comments Gibson received on their Facebook page after openly supporting the Black Lives Matter Movement.
The poem specifically calls out white people to educate themselves about their own privilege, as they introduced the poem by saying “it should never, ever, ever, be the responsibility of people of color to educate white people about white privilege and white supremacy.” Gibson believes that as someone with a microphone, it is their responsibility to give a voice to those that might not otherwise have it.
In addition to racism, Gibson’s poetry also touches on sexual assault and sexual harassment, mentioning that they were inspired by the Me Too Movement, that so many women had the courage to share their stories so publicly. Many of the poems that Gibson shared were dark and emotional, peppered with poems that had a lighter message. One of those was “To the Men Catcalling my Girlfriend While I’m Walking Beside Her,” a poem about things they wanted to yell at these men, a poem about their anger at the fact that many men think this is okay. It’s a poem that resonates with many women’s experiences, placing the blame squarely on men’s shoulders.
Throughout the night, Gibson brought much of the audience to tears, but no poem quite garnered the emotional response of “Orlando,” a poem Gibson wrote in response to the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. With a largely LGBTQ+ audience, there wasn’t a dry eye in the venue, with Gibson hitting people with lines like: “Life, it’s like funeral practice: half of us already dead to our families before we die, half of us on our knees still trying to crawl into the family photo.” Gibson said that they often can’t get through this particular poem, but that it was necessary in giving a voice to those that died.
If there’s one thing that I took away from attending this event, it’s this: now more than ever, we need to support artists like Chastity Brown and Andrea Gibson. We need to attend their events, listen to their songs, read their poetry, listen to their stories. Supporting and giving a voice to oppressed populations gives them an avenue to be heard among, and hopefully cutting through, the racist and oppressive news stories surrounding our President. These stories will allow us to come together against the oppressive nature of the current administration.
If you would like to see Gibson during their tour, you can find their tour dates here. They just released a new album, Hey Galaxy, which you can listen to on Spotify and purchase on their website. They’re also releasing a new book on January 23rd, Take Me With You.
If you’re interested in discovering more slam poets featuring a wide variety of topics, I encourage you to check out Button Poetry, who publish a wide variety of poets and feature a different poet each week on their YouTube channel.
Poetry has often been an avenue to speak out against injustice. Supporting the voices of diverse poets is one way to show President Trump that you’re not buying into his narrative of hate.