Spoken Word Performance: Does Democracy Need Poets?

As long as there have been poems, there have been political poems: verses, intended to be heard aloud, meant to sway opinion and inspire action. Poetry played a crucial role in the Athenian democracy of ancient Greece; throughout American history, poet luminaries such as Walt Whitman, Langston Hughes, and Maya Angelou have employed the power of the pen to influence leaders and their fellow citizens. Today’s spoken word bards continue this tradition of stoking political activism by employing their art to expose cracks in America’s racial, economic, and social fabric—and pushing ever-broadening audiences to get out and vote in the face of escalating ballot suppression. Can art succeed where traditional political messaging has failed? Could the future of democracy depend on poets?

Join us as spoken word poets take the mic (and the Zócalo stage) at the ASU California Center. The night will begin with Beau Sia performing “We Voting,” and Sekou Andrews and Steve Connell performing “Water Stained Black,” followed by a conversation with the poets about the ways artists engage with politics, and fuel democracy.

After the program ends, head to Da Poetry Lounge at 544 N Fairfax Ave to join its weekly open mic night on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. with a suggested $10 donation for entry.

Zócalo invites our in-person audience to continue the conversation with our speakers and each other at a post-event reception with complimentary drinks and small bites.

Zócalo Public Square values audience safety. During events at ASU California Center, only clear bags (maximum size 12” x 6” x 12”) and small clutches (maximum size 8 ½” x 5 ½”) are permitted in the venue. Questions? Ask us at [email protected].

The ASU California Center is inclusive and accessible for all. A platform wheelchair lift is available at our main entrance via Broadway (ground level). Upon checking in for the event, please inform Zócalo staff if you need assistance, or contact [email protected] for additional information.