Pauline Hendrix stood high above Columbia’s city lights, arms pressed against her sides, eyes closed softly behind thin rimmed glasses and sang “His Eyes on the Sparrow.”
The Stephens College sophomore was among about a dozen performers Tuesday night at a gathering that referenced spirituality, struggle and song to spread the message of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at the penthouse level of Hugh Stephens Library at Stephens College.
“We’re a group that helps to promote Dr. King’s values 365 days a year,” said Rhyane Wagner, 19, of Los Angeles, a member of the Martin Luther King Student Union, one of the event’s sponsors.
Performers used poetry, spoken word, song and rap to spread the message that they are not alone.
Sean Hickem, a warehouse operator at the college and a spokenword performer, asked, “Do they Know?” in his performance, which described an 18-year-old’s decision to join the military, confused by propaganda and “full of fright via satellite.” His solution “in this tournament of champions” was to “seek revelations again.”
With poetry by Nikki Giovanni and Maya Angelou and a song by Natalie Cole, the women in the group spoke of empowerment and, in the words of event organizer Caprice Foster, said “the inner thoughts that everybody has but nobody says.”
As more students crept into the room to sit quietly in the back, “The Katalyzt’s,” a spiritual rap group, took the stage. The group, made up of student Jesca Byndon and her husband Tyree Byndon, told listeners, “people don’t pray unless it’s drastic,” and their struggles were tests that would help them grow.
Jason Bailey, owner and editor of the news magazine “CoMo,” eagerly “spit verse” hoping those present would not be afraid to speak out. Bailey himself has been working to integrate the community and university voices with his publication.
“The way we approach it, Columbia is a cosmopolitan oasis in the middle of nowhere,” he said. “We don’t have an agenda. We just want our voices to be heard.”