The bass thumps as trap music blares from the speaker. Students laugh through their poses as instructor TrapYogaBae tells them to shake their heads, stretch their necks and say “no to fuckboys” as they move into downward-facing dog.
The 11th annual Birth of Word Festival brought trap yoga — yoga set to trap music — and other free events to UC Santa Cruz students to serve as a space for students to prioritize self-care before finals.
At the event, held May 25 and 26 at the Stevenson Event Center, about 50 students attended both days’ events to enjoy free food, performances and poetry from current students, UCSC alumni and special guests Gina Loring and Britteny Rogers, also known as TrapYogaBae.
“We try to focus on real-life issues and making sure that people are physically and emotionally taking care of themselves so that they can get through things like school and work and family stuff,” said Cultural Arts and Diversity (CAD) board member Maimouna Camara. “We are providing a space that people probably can’t find anywhere else on campus.”
The event, organized and sponsored by CAD, focused on self-care and building strong relationships in the community. They searched for performers who advocate for self-care and could also be a voice for inclusion and diversity.
“It gives the community as a whole the opportunity to demonstrate and exercise their gifts as a collective,” said CAD artistic director Don Williams. “We also have an opportunity to bring back alumni to continue mentoring with the younger folk.”
Williams said the event symbolizes a family reunion through shared food and supporting the artistic endeavors of other students — even after they’ve graduated. While in past years the focus was on providing a platform for spoken word, organizers this year incorporated self-care as a way for students to feel connected and supported.
Alumni Autumn Johnson and Fortino Vazquez-Hernandez Jr. performed spoken word after the event. Their poetry dealt with themes of political and cultural racism and immigration. UCSC alumnus Michael Anthony Rangel gave a presentation on spoken word as a performative act and gave tips on writing and being critical of poetry while intermittently reciting his own verses.
Camara said the new aspects of the event help bring new people to the community, and organizers are trying to appeal to and include more cultures.
“Just the little things like free food and a space that plays music and people who are willing to sit down and listen to a form of art that encompasses all the things that are not discussed,” Camara said, “it helps retain students because when they hear new things and are acknowledging things that are not addressed anywhere else, they want to engage more and ask more questions.”
Student groups like Grupo Folklórico Los Mejicas, Kasama Ballroom Dance Troupe, Sabrosura and People of the Islands (POI) performed dances. Los Mejicas did a traditional Mexican folkloric dance and Kasama had a partner dance performance set to a rendition of Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” Sabrosura did a Latin partner dance and POI performed hula.
First-year Jeovana Juarez had never been to a spoken word or poetry event but took interest in the way poetry advocates for diversity.
“Honestly there isn’t a lot of diversity [on campus] and there are not a lot of people who are aware of what diversity really means,” Juarez said. “It’s important for these programs on campus to educate students.”
Poet and vocalist Gina Loring spoke to this need for diversity by sharing her poetry and songs about female empowerment and giving advice on how to handle injustices. She spoke about what it means to be a woman, specifically a black woman, and how we can progress in finding ourselves and our identity.
For students who may be dealing with bigger issues like cultural injustices or biases, this becomes even more important, said CAD artistic director Don Williams.
“There are a lot of students that are very frail in terms of not knowing what the future holds because of changing laws and politics,” Williams said. “It’s very frustrating and makes people tense so it’s important that people have time to find ways to relax. It makes a big difference.”