Elizabeth Acevedo, world-renowned poet and activist, came to Ithaca College on Sept. 7 to perform several of her poems. Acevedo’s performance was part of the college’s Latinx Heritage Month and included themes such as racial identity, police brutality and love.
Acevedo said she appreciates the existence of Latinx Heritage Month on campus, because she feels it’s important for universities to create a welcoming and diverse environment for students.
“I think it’s really important for institutions to create space,” Acevedo said. “I think they need to take active roles in highlighting different groups of people. I try to say I’m Dominican every day, I’m Latina every day, so for me, I carry the heritage month throughout every month. It’s… about being proud every day.”
Acevedo said one of her favorite aspects of performing is when audience members connect with parts of her poems in ways she had not noticed before. The feedback she receives in those moments reminds her why she does what she does.
“I always want people to enjoy themselves,” Acevedo said. “Folks come to events and don’t realize how fulfilling and meaningful an event can be when someone is just reading a poem. I hope people can walk away really thinking about their own vulnerabilities, how important it is to feel those, and thinking about empathy. I think I’m my best self on stage, and so I want to inspire people to be their best selves as well.”
In the audience was one of Acevedo’s former students, Zahra Wardrick ’20. She used to be part of the D.C. Youth Poetry Slam Team in Washington, D.C., where Acevedo coached young poets on the art of slam poetry.
“Whenever I hear Elizabeth perform, I’m reminded of the impact you can have in a space, just because she has such a strong presence,” Wardrick said. “No matter what you’re choosing to say or where you’re saying it, it matters if people are willing to listen.”
Wardrick brought senior Jennifer Hiyama ’17 along to the performance to introduce her to slam poetry. Having never seen any form of slam poetry before, Hiyama said Acevedo was inspiring to watch, and she appreciated how she could be a role model for those interested in the art.
“My biggest take-away was that weakness is also a strength; you can be vulnerable and be very proud of where you come from and take that with you as you grow older,” Hiyama said.
Acevedo has traveled around the world, performing in Madison Square Garden, Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the State Theatre in South Africa. She is beginning a national tour, and Ithaca was her fourth stop. Her performance was also made possible by PODER, a student organization dedicated to bringing together Hispanic/Latino students to form a supportive, educational community.