On Feb. 19, ETSU’s Black Affairs Association sponsored “The Poetry Café,” in association with February’s Black History Month events. The evening focused on the spoken word artists of ETSU as they took brave steps up to the mic.

Students shared personal songs of love and loss, handcrafted poems of deceit and bliss, all the while backed by live musicians that truly gave each performance an extra push to greatness.

“Most of the time, students are talked to,” said Josephus Thompson, a co-host. “You have knowledge poured into you, but not often enough are you given the chance to spill your thoughts back out. The mic holds the chance to just do that.”

A key factor in keeping the event running smoothly were the two energetic co-hosts, Thompson and Jha’mai Milindez. During pauses between performers, the two took the stage to keep the audience entertained through fun poll questions and familiar songs.

The audience was completely along for the ride, applauding their classmates and singing along with familiar tunes.

“I started working with Josephus when I was 16 years old,” explains Milindez. “I was making a little music, but not performing consistently. When I turned 18, he had me come to the Poetry Café, and from there I went from attending the show and doing a couple songs to co-hosting with him as we tour college campuses. It means a lot; it not only catapulted where my career is now but just my overall confidence in myself, my performance, my writing. Everything is just elevated.”

The confidence Milindez has now is an impact Thompson hopes to instill in all the students he welcomes to perform through the Café.

“I think that student voice is important,” Thompson said. “Having space and opportunities where students can share who they are is imperative to life.”

Students seemed to support this same cause. At the end of the night, the crowd was fully engaged, discussing the stories presented by their fellow students and bonding over the words and music that flowed through the air.

“I feel like everyone is bringing out their talents,” ETSU freshman Pamela Wyatt shares. “Everyone is really coming out of their shell. I love it.”