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Poet provides perspective on cultural identity

George “G” Yamazawa performs slam poetry and rap at an event Thursday night in the Michel Student Center Ballroom.
Photo by Sammy Dellaria

Bradley community members gathered last night in Marty Theater to listen and watch slam poet George “G” Yamazawa perform original poetry. The event was co-sponsored by the Activities Council of Bradley University and Chi Omega sorority and was part of ACBU’s Critical Issues event series.

Yamazawa is a National Poetry Slam Champion and has performed at over 200 universities around the world. Additionally, his work has been featured on ABC, NBC, NPR and PBS.

His pieces covered topics including his cultural identity as a first-generation American, the son of Japanese immigrants, growing up in Durham, North Carolina.

According to Yamazawa, he is able to connect the meaning of his poetry to the college audience, especially through topics like finding personal identity.

“[College] is a time in students’ lives where they are first really sort of diving into their identity, not even in like a metaphysical spiritual way but just socially, politically and culturally,” Yamazawa said. “It is their first time where they get this intense level of freedom. They are sort of ready to hear from a poet … For me, it is just a really great and engaging audience.”

During his performance, Yamazawa encouraged audience members to express themselves and react to his poetry by vocalizing their feelings, snapping their fingers, clapping or nodding their heads.

According to ACBU’s critical issues coordinator Jonathan Bohnert, bringing performers like Yamazawa is a great way for students to learn about different life perspectives.

“[ACBU’s Critical Issues] is really trying to bring stuff that not everybody at Bradley is going to know about and expand their horizons in terms of diversity,” Bohnert, a junior mechanical engineering major, said.

Performing for a full Marty Theater, Bohnert said the turn out for the event was great to see students coming to take advantage of opportunities like this event.

“I was really happy with the turn out,” Bohnert said. “We have had good events in the past with slam poets, but this by far, has topped it in terms of that, so we are really proud that we were able to get this many people in a room for [Yamazawa],”

Those in attendance at the event said they were able to identify with Yamazawa’s words in relation to their own cultural background.

“I thought [Yamazawa] was really relatable,” Lexy Franco, a junior marketing major, said. “As a Latina, I felt like the things he talked about, I feel that. When he talked about identity and culture … I was like, ‘I feel that.’ And someone expressing it was really nice. Having all of those feelings inside, and when someone relates to that, it is just really nice and made me feel comfortable. He was really entertaining, too.”

Yamazawa’s rap album “Shouts to Durham” dropped earlier this year and charted No. 37 on iTunes’ Top 100 Rap Albums. While Yamazawa said he has loved being able to expand in the realm of rap, it is always nice to be able to tour universities and perform his slam poetry.

“It is cool because I am so deep into music now that when I sort of take a step out and come to Bradley and do a poetry show, I am reminded of how powerful poetry is and always has been,” Yamazawa said.

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