Section: Arts

Poetic duo Sister Outsider gives voice to societal tensions

Poetic duo Sister Outsider gives voice to societal tensions

by Elana Spivack

Peirce Pub housed a standing-room-only-sized crowd this past Friday, when about 150 students flocked to see slam poetry duo Sister Outsider. The pair, Denice Frohman and Dominique Christina, has been performing together since 2013. The Crozier Center for Women co-sponsored the event with Unity House, the Black Student Union and five other groups. Sister Outsider’s poetry delved into highly personal topics spanning race, identity, sexual orientation, terrorism and education.

Crozier decided to bring Sister Outsider to campus after the group first reached out to Crozier mentioning they would be available to perform while onthe last leg of their three-year tour.

The performers created a dynamic atmosphere by encouraging the audience to vocalize their reactions to the poetry, characterizing slam as a call-and-response art. “You do not have to treat it like mass,” Christina said. Before long, students were cheering in response to the truth in their words.

Frohman, a New York City native, had her poem “Dear Straight People” go viral on social-culture website Upworthy in 2013, the same year she won the Women of the World Slam Poetry Competition. Though she planned to study biology in college, she began writing poetry her first year, and by 2010, had started participating in slam poetry.

Christina, from Denver, is an award-winning poet, educator and former Olympic volleyball player; she won the Women of the World Slam Poetry Competition in 2012 and 2014. Christina began to write poetry in her senior year of college and in 2011 became involved with slam poetry.

Frohman and Christina collaborated on “No Child Left Behind,” which detailed the injustices of the American education system. With clear language, the duo deftly criticized how children are set apart for their differences in the classroom because of  teachers assuming what children do or do not know. Their words rang true to the audience. “It really complemented the way they were really able to perform as individuals and as a duo,” attendee Sarah Adrionowycz ’16 said.

The two cite feminist writer Audre Lorde, who frequently discussed social liberalism and sexuality in her works, as an inspiration. “Audre talks a lot about silence and fear,” Frohman said in an interview with the Collegian. “We try to not remove that fear but take that fear and say it exists, but that it’s not something that stops us from speaking about the things we should n’t be silent about.”

Such a silence surrounds issues like sexuality. Frohman’s piece “Dear Straight People” presents her experiences as a queer woman. Their final duet, “Pocketbooks and Pachangas,” discussed how both men and women marginalize female bodies by coining absurd slang terms for vaginas, such as the two title names. They confronted myriad difficult topics with both humor and gravity. “They interspersed difficult subject matter with humor and positive messages,” attendee Chloe Farrell ’16 said.

Crozier wanted to share this variety with a Kenyon audience. “We were particularly interested in Sister Outsider because we liked the idea of having a spoken word group and we also liked that they spoke to many different identities,” Crozier co-manager Anna Cohen ’16 said.

In addition to spreading awareness, Sister Outsider seeks to give agency to their listeners. Christina said she aims to empower her audience to “have greater authorship over their own lives and maybe do so without apology.”

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