Come together, right now

Voices Merging brings poetry to the people.

Greg Corradini

Put your mic to it and anything is possible.

Eliana Reyes was once a hardcore tomboy rapper. Now, she is Spanish Royalty. In or outside of work, poet Anthony Galloway personifies Knowledge.

They, however, are only two of the many campus poets in Voices Merging who brandish stage names and push aside racial, political and social differences to verbally stimulate the Twin Cities’ community with a potent message.

Voices Merging isn’t as much a student group as it is a very vocal group of student activists. It first started a commotion on campus with its Monday night open mics.

Now, you can find some members working in North Minneapolis high schools. But first and foremost, Voices Merging acts as a multicultural student support group for the University.

This article is only a small portion of the group’s story. To hear the group tell it is like having your ears anointed with “the word.”

BlackMan Preach

When Cedric Bolton brainstorms for ways to improve the community, he said, he thinks in biblical parables.

“If you put your seeds down in good soil, they will grow. If they grow, then they will multiply,” said Bolton (aka BlackMan Preach), a poet and former University educational specialist. “Before you know it, you’ll have enough food to feed the entire world.”

Bolton’s food-for-thought is community involvement, and his statement emphasizes how it can flourish in the right conditions.

In 2002, Bolton’s community initiative spawned Voices Merging.

In organizing the project, Bolton said, he was trying to create a support group in which students could come together and share their ideas.

“We opened up a vessel of support for those traumatic and good experiences that students are going through,” he said.

The fall of 2002 saw the group’s first open-mic session.

Voices Merging president Galloway (aka Knowledge) said approximately 15 to 30 people attended the first show.

“Now, we’re averaging between 80- and 100-some people every open mic,” he said.

Keeping the seedlings of Bolton’s initiative alive, Galloway stressed the difference between Voices Merging and slam poetry organizations, which poets compete against one another.

“We are not a slam poetry organization. We are just a poetry organization creating a space for people to come and share their poetry and spoken word,” Galloway said.

But something this big has a hard time containing itself.

“If you have an effect on society, then you need to go into other societies and touch other bodies so that they can be inspired,” Bolton said.

The larger community is very much a part of the Voices Merging’s mission.

Community outreach

One of Voices Merging’s showcases was the spring 2003 “What’s Love” women’s night, a collaborative effort with the Minnesota Women’s Center. Approximately 125 people attended the event, which featured only women poets.

“That was crazy. We had so many female performers get up there and represent,” said Reyes (aka “Spanish Royalty”), a third-year University student.

In 2003, the group moved beyond the halls of higher education. Now, Voices Merging can be found in Twin Cities high schools.

This past summer, some Voices Merging poets such as Reyes participated in an overnighter at Minneapolis North High School.

They performed poetry, helped high school students workshop their own poetry and talked with them about college life.

Reyes said she understands the importance of higher education and knows the struggles inner-city children face. Before moving to Minneapolis, she partially attended a high school in New York.

“We came into high school 300 deep and graduated with 170. So I go tell kids, ‘Look, I’m in college. If I can make it, you can make it,’ ” Reyes said.

Whether the pockets of poetry that Voices Merging creates comprise teenagers or toddlers, the group’s overarching aim is to sow a new breed of poet too loud to be ignored.

“It’s a beautiful experience to see all these different cultures get on stage and express their feelings. And Voices Merging definitely supports that,” Reyes said.