Spoken word sways Aztec women

by Laura Nguyen

In honor of International Women’s Day, guest Joanna Hoffman delivered a spoken word performance discussing her personal experiences growing up as a homosexual woman on Thursday at the International Student Center.

Hoffman, a poet, performer, teaching artist and advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals questioning their sexual identity, presented a collection of interspersed video clips of current events and her poetry called “These Simple Truths” for students, staff and community members.

“These Simple Truths” featured poems focusing on personal, political and global issues, as well as, identity development, women’s rights, religious exploration and sexual identity.

The poems also encouraged audiences to become global citizens. Being a global citizen means focusing on unifying themes that bring people together despite perceived differences. It’s about showing the humanity within complex national issues and how these issues are broken down to a personal level.

“The political is personal and the personal is political,” Hoffman said. “Every issue comes down to human beings. We need to remember that these issues are happening to real people.”

What Hoffman enjoys about poetry more than anything else its human connection. She finds performing empowering and therapeutic.

“The most gratifying response I receive is when a young gay teenager tells me they are now going to come out to their best friends or family and find the courage to tell their story,” Hoffman said.

Through “Truths,” she has been able to express thoughts and experiences she didn’t think she could otherwise share.

“It was nice to hear these topics put into a poem and delivered in a different way than in a magazine or a speech,” international accounting masters student Ngan Nguyen said. “It was my first time hearing spoken word and it was very touching. Sometimes I cried because I could feel her emotions.”

Hoffman said she tries to go back to her initial emotions whenever she performs. She sees spoken word poetry as an extension of oral storytelling and something more authentic when it comes from a personal place. By sharing her story, Hoffman ultimately hopes to inspire audiences to find their voices and stand up for their beliefs.

“(Hoffman’s) words were very right-on,” Ron McMullin, who works as a mentor for international students, said. “I don’t think prejudice diminishes. We need to be aware of it; we need to be courageous to speak up against it.”

This is the response the ISC hopes to ignite through the International Speaker Forum events. The ISF is divided into four days with four different speakers discussing global issues and current world affairs. The forum attempts to educate audiences about global issues and development through these presentations and discussions.