Recently, Isla Vista’s beloved Biko Garage collaborated with the MultiCultural Center to host Open Mic and an Evening of Self-Expression, available to anyone who wanted to express themselves through spoken word, poetry, music and dance. Despite the fact that there’s nowhere to park your bike at Biko, there was a full house with people pouring out of the garage filled with performers and audience members alike.
The garage itself shelters colorful lights, art-covered walls, a dazzling disco ball and couches that make you feel right at home. The material space creates an eccentric atmosphere that attracts even more eccentric people. As I arrived at this event, a crumpled piece of lined notebook paper was being passed around, already filled with scribbled names anxiously waiting to hear their cue to the stage.
The MC for the night was the one and only Roni Walker, an LA-based poet who has been writing since age 7 and also works as an upcycled fashion designer. Prior to this evening, Roni has hosted different events for both the MultiCultural Center (M.C.C.) and Associated Students (A.S.) over the last 10 years. “I think it’s important that people have a platform to express themselves because there’s a lot of pressure in this world, especially being a student,” she said. “We need a diverse outlet where people are free to express themselves and no one is judging them.”
Since she didn’t personally know any of the performers, Roni ingeniously conjured up humorous introductions which kept the ambiance of the night cheerful and enjoyable.
There was a wide variety of performances including spoken songs, original and well-known poetry, live music and a comedy set. All of the students were extremely brave as they showcased different talents like self-proclaimed “nerd” poetry, slam poetry, guitar playing and singing. One of my personal favorites of the night was Razine and the slam poetry recital of his original work “Poltergeist.” Before he began his performance he informed the audience, “I really don’t like ghosts,” and went on to speak with a satisfying rhythm the heartfelt line: “I was just the interlude and you were my whole album.”
MC Roni described her favorite poet of the night to be a third-year environmental science major named Elleni Vasquez. “Her poem talked about her living in a house with her family members and living with the ghosts of living people. And it just really affected everybody, not just her.”
In speaking with the M.C.C. Program Coordinator Abire Sabbagh, I inquired about why the Biko Garage was chosen for this event. Sabbagh explained that Biko is a great environment to host the quarterly Open Mic because it aligns with “our mission statement” and its location in I.V. is “accessible to students.” When asked why she believes the Open Mic is an important event for students to express themselves, Sabbagh described how students “aren’t often given opportunities in a place where they can feel comfortable and safe to talk about issues and struggles they deal with.”
With the cooperation of I.V.’s beloved Biko Garage, Gauchos were given a safe and supportive space in which they could express themselves and inspire others to do the same. Even after a long day of class, attending the open mic proved to be an entertaining and worthwhile experience.