The Coffee Collaborative is small, cozy, and intimate with a chalk written menu and creative, specialized coffee items; it’s a quintessential college coffee shop. The Coffee Collab also contains a chess board, a bookshelf full of books, and a colorful mural on the right back wall. Add a few chairs and a stand up microphone and it’s the perfect place to host an open mic night on a rainy Thursday night.
This time the MCC invited and hosted University of San Francisco graduate Sarah Toutant as the MC for an open mic night. With a bachelor’s degree in both sociology and critical diversity studies, Toutant has a certain confidence and wisdom of how the world works, showcasing knowledge unexpected from someone so young, and it is nice to see how her wisdom permeates throughout her poetry.
Toutant is warm, engaged, and enthusiastic. She would recite her own poems between calling up those who signed up to perform, and often gave humorous, supportive comments to other performers concerning their poetry. She frequently spoke of her experience being adopted as an African American baby into a white family, praising her parents for raising her with patience, kindness, and support.
Out of all the poems of the night, one musical performer stood out. Banri somehow combined cackawing, playing a recorder, and freestyle rapping all into one piece. It was a little hard to get involved in, but the rest of the audience seemed to enjoy as shown from the loud cheers at the end of his performance. Music definitely played a role in setting the mood of the night; a DJ was set up to the side of the stage playing performers on and off the stage and giving out beats. The music certainly added to the strong hipster vibe humming through the air.
Despite the relaxed ambiance, the topics addressed in the poems held a certain weight to them. Toutant and all the rest of the poems spoke of differing topics, but they all seemed to relate back to issues of race, ethnicity, and diversity. One of Toutant’s sassier poems titled “Dear Donna” humorously embraced African American beauty, especially Afro-textured hair. Afterwards Ryan Lawrence went to the stage with a poem of African American empowerment, which concluded with a powerful line: “Once black knows it’s beautiful, it’s stronger than red, white, and blue.”
Toutant’s next poem was a particularly loaded poem about growing up in a white family, yet being incredibly conscious and proud of being African American. The poem, “Ain’t No All Lives Matter,” dealt with the interesting, yet sometimes painful, dynamic of an interracial family in a frank, honest manner. It was especially potent with Toutant’s own mother sitting in the audience.
Another powerful performer came in the form of Keith Mar, an alumnus of the University of California, Santa Barbara who now lives in the area. In light of the night’s diversity topics, Mar proudly professed that he was Chinese, his wife was Irish Catholic, and their two adopted children were Korean. His wife sat supportively in the audience as he performed an intense piece about how Asian Americans are portrayed in popular culture, taking us through the history of Asian Americans in media. Mar raged and despaired, especially in the fact that “Asians are not allowed to be the heroes in even [their] own story.”
Poet Corinne Contreras spoke of the fears of immigration and getting a new green card when crossing the borders between Mexico and California. This subject was especially relevant to the modern political climate with the upcoming presidential election. Toutant finished the night after that rather serious poem with a humorous one praising her vagina. It was an empowering piece to all women, especially those of color, and the last line gave a great last laugh to close the night with “#stepyourdickup.”
It was a fascinating open mic night: casual, relaxed, and open yet tackling serious issues that pertain throughout today’s modern society. Major themes of ethnicity, diversity, and acceptance lingered in the air throughout the entire evening, and it was comforting being in the midst of all these young people of all sorts of ethnicities, openly discussing the social problems plaguing the modern world. On that night with poetry, music, and chill vibes, it was nice to see the young generation coming together and try to, in their own way with poetry and song, make progress in today’s world.