Flags representing various sexual orientations lined the otherwise bare walls in 3rd Place Boone on Nov. 8, and several chairs were placed in rows for audience members, who were asked to support performers by snapping. The front of the room became a stage for poetry writers to speak their truth as members of the LGBTQ community were met with an overflow of encouragement from listeners.
The LGBTQ poetry night was organized by the Henderson Springs LGBT Center and was the first of its kind.
One participant, Becky Parsons, is a senior public relations major and LGBT Center desk shift volunteer. As a desk shift volunteer, Parsons helped plan the poetry night and other events for the LGBT Center.
Starting off the night, Parsons read some of her own poetry, including one entitled “To Every Man Who Ever Thought He Owned Me (TEMWETHOM).”
“This is like my therapy session for the week,” Parsons said.
Other readers who performed spoke about mental health, heartbreak, longing and self-love.
Every poet came to the stage with a drumroll from audience members and snaps when they left.
“It felt great to have friends there and people that I didn’t really know, but still understood where I was coming from,” Parsons said.
When planning the event, Parsons was unsure whether or not participants would want to perform their poetry.
“I wanted it to be an opportunity to come listen to LGBT poets talk, maybe for the first time, and get them involved in reading their work,” Parsons said. “Reading your work as an LGBT person and having your story heard is the first step to really creating representation and visibility in the community.”
For freshman music industry studies major Devin Parham, the poetry night was his first time performing his work.
“Honestly, I wrote it 15 minutes before I performed it,” Parham said. “I really wanted to perform something but didn’t have any of my stuff with me, so I just wanted to whip something up really quick.”
Parham said he felt the sense of community in the room throughout his reading and saw the poetry night as an opportunity for LGBT individuals to have a voice on issues and stigma towards the community.
3rd Place Boone coordinators Corey Kundert and Rev. Stephanie Hankins work with various nonprofits, student groups, faith communities and any group that fosters a welcoming community.
“It’s important to show that Boone is inclusive as a whole and that there are individuals here who want to hear the stories of the LGBTQ community and learn about how they can be even more inclusive,” Kundert said. “I also think that, as someone a part of the majority, it is important to just sit down and listen.”
Hankins said she felt that the open mic fit the purpose of 3rd Place, as it was an opportunity for the LGBT community to express themselves.
“We see radical welcome as part of our calling,” Hankins said. “Everyone is welcome, no matter their anything. No exceptions.”
Story by Christina Beals, News Reporter