By Rula Al-Nasrawi
It’s not every day that a person of color can stand on a stage and have his or her voice heard by hundreds of people. Birth of Word, one of five annual shows presented by Rainbow Theater, will provide that opportunity.
The Birth of Word event specifically serves to portray the art of both verbal and nonverbal communication. Jackie Martinez, a third-year student and main coordinator of Birth of Word, explained that poets and dancers from across the United States perform at this event.
“This campus lacks a lot of raw expression,” Martinez said. “Birth of Word is all about raw expression of art, dance, poetry, and music.”
Rainbow Theater is a collective group of students working to promote diversity and spoken word at UCSC. Don Williams, founded Rainbow out of Stevenson College over 13 years ago in an effort to give students of color a feeling of community. Rainbow also provides free outreach programs for incoming UCSC students of color.
Rainbow provides many students with the opportunity to speak out and perform at live events, like Birth of Word. Performer and UCSC alumnus Edy McWilliams discussed his involvement with Rainbow Theater and how it affected his college experience.
McWilliams is currently part of a nonprofit organization based in New York called Global Kids. This organization functions in 14 different schools throughout Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx in order to educate high school students about global issues, leadership, and human rights.
McWilliams credits his efforts in Global Kids to Rainbow and carries what he learned with Rainbow everywhere he goes.
“I inject pieces of Rainbow into what I do,” McWilliams said.
Rainbow helped McWilliams feel connected to UCSC, he said.
“Rainbow is a starting ground for people locked in their structures,” McWilliams said. “That’s what kept me afloat.”
Martinez clarifies that although UCSC is known to welcome diversity with open arms, many students of color feel intimidated to speak out in a predominantly white campus. Birth of Word provides a platform for students of any race to “spit and feel a sense of relief.”
All of the events set up by Rainbow give students an outlet to express their emotions without fear of judgment.
“Sometimes the stage is the only place you don’t get silenced,” Martinez said.
Lisa Evans, a second-year student and member of the planning committee for Birth of Word, explained that having performers from all different walks of life is what makes the event special.
Evans is part of a women-of-color writing group called Flow, which will also be performing at Birth of Word. When asked about spitting and performing poetry, Evans stated that it is one of the most rewarding experiences anyone can have.
“Reading your poetry to people is nothing like performing a play,” Evans said. “When you’re reading a poem, people see you.”
Martinez adds that without Rainbow, many students would not have the opportunity to be seen and heard. To Martinez and many others, Rainbow is not just theater but a movement.
Although Birth of Word is a fairly young event, Martinez explains that people can learn a lot from the poets, artists, dancers, and speakers that will be there.
“What I really want,” Martinez said, “is for the audience to leave Birth of Word with a heart that feels so much better.”
_The event will be at the Merrill Cultural Center from noon to 5 p.m._