Diverse Verses student poetry organization wants to enhance community

By Brittney Coulter

Members of Diverse Verses, a student organization on campus, hope to help break the Baylor bubble while enhancing the social scene through poetry and the spoken word.

Sydeaka Watson, a May 2011 Baylor graduate who is a bio-technician and assistant professor at the University of Chicago, said she founded Diverse Verses in March 2010 hoping it would play an active role in the community.

“We always envisioned that it would be something that would be a bridge between the poetry community at Baylor and the general poetry community in Waco,” Watson said.

Watson came to Baylor from New Orleans, a city with a thriving spoken word culture.

Upon arriving in Waco Watson aid she quickly realized that the community was lacking a poetry scene.

“I’ve always been surrounded by poetry, and so when I came to Waco and I didn’t see that there was an active team, that was my inspiration,” she said. “We decided that it was time for us to take the poetry community into our own hands and be more involved.”

The original members of the organization sought to meet their goals through regular poetry readings and workshops to help aspiring spoken word artists develop their writing and performance skills.

Along with enriching the community, the original members of Diverse Verses hoped to form a spoken word team that would travel nationwide and compete in poetry slams — competitions in which poets perform original pieces that are evaluated by a panel of judges.

Watson, however, was unable to see a lot of the original goals for the organization accomplished before she graduated.

“All of those things require work and we weren’t able to do a lot of that stuff last year,” Watson said.

This year, the organization has already made great strides to achieve its original goals.

Birmingham, Ala., senior Christopher Brown, co-founder and president of Diverse Verses, said the organization is working hard to get further involved in the community.

“One thing we are doing differently this year is utilizing Waco facilities to host poetry nights instead of only performing in the Baylor bubble,” he said. “Waco has some really unique buildings that aren’t used often. This will definitely show the community that Diverse Verses is serious about being more inclusive in the community.”

One location the organization is planning to use for monthly open mic nights is the Jubilee Theatre, located at 1319 N. 15th St.

Brown also said the organization is planning to get involved with Mission Waco starting at the end of this month.

“Right now we’re trying to partner with Mission Waco and mentor to at-risk students through writing and poetry,” he said.

Coppers Cove senior Nina Ruff, coordinator for external public relations for Diverse Verses, said young people in the area can benefit from expressing themselves through poetry and other fine arts.

She said their partnership with the Jubilee Theatre and Mission Waco is a “two-tiered partnership” that will not only give area youth the tools to unlock their creativity, but also a venue where they can perform.

Ruff said she feels very strongly about the organization’s plan to help bridge the gap between Baylor and Waco and encourage students to get to know the community they live in.

“I think it’s important to be part of something around you,” she said. “It’s odd when you live right next to someone for years and you don’t know anything about them.”

So far this year, Diverse Verses has succeeded in attracting new members from the Waco community and from other college campuses in the area.

Current members come from institutions such as McLennan Community College, Texas State Technical College and University of North Texas, and all are welcome, said Ruff.

Brown hopes the organization will become an outlet for everyone — students and community members alike — to express themselves.

“Our goal is to be more diverse in our organization and to include different people from different backgrounds and different cultures and different walks of life, and just to make sure that everybody shares their story, their pain, [and] their emotion through poetry,” Brown said.

Diverse Verses will perform Poetry Slam held from 7 to 9 p.m., Saturday at the Waco Cultural Arts Festival in the One Book One Waco tent.

The festival will feature local poets and spoken word artists from all over.

Their first open mic event at the Jubilee Theatre will be Sept. 27. and is open to the public.

Students who wish to join Diverse Verses can attend open meetings held at 8:15 p.m., the second and fourth Wednesday of each month in the Houston Room of the Bill Daniel Students Center.