Our Art Spoken In Soul (OASIS) Speaks in "Reclaiming Space" Workshop

 by AynNichelle Slappy

Wednesday night, Swarthmore’s spoken word organization Our Art Spoken In Soul (OASIS) held a workshop on “Reclaiming Space”. Leslie Moreaux ‘20 led the workshop, a poet and also a leader of other workshops both on campus and throughout the Bronx. She started off the program with introductions and a powerful group poem activity.

Participants were given forty-five seconds to write one line of a poem on a piece of paper. When the forty-five seconds was up, participants folded the paper so that all that was visible was the last line written, and passed the poem to the person next to them. That participant was instructed to continue, and the poem was passed until six poems were written by the end. One of the pieces goes as follows:


I need air

My rib cage a metal lockbox, my heart insufficiently pumping blood

And this wouldn’t be the first time my heart doesn’t do enough

And I’m sure it won’t be the last because even my organs are losing themselves and not functioning

But there’s beauty in knowing I am not functioning at my fullest. It gives me hope,

That my best is yet to come, but what do I do in the meantime?


Art by Faith Ringgold.

Art by Faith Ringgold.

This activity was followed by an analysis of a piece from Faith Ringgold’s  twelve-part quilt series.  Moreaux’s choice to feature the piece in her workshop, emphasized the importance of art in reclaiming spaces. “I wanted to use a different medium to spark a discussion about reclaiming space. Whenever I see interviews of rappers, they make it known that their music is influenced by different types of art, so I thought it would be a good idea to expose workshop participants to different forms of art that have a similar theme. For this workshop I wanted to talk about reclaiming space, and I think Ringgold depicts that in painting a Black woman and Black girls dancing in the Louvre in front of the Mona Lisa.”

The third part of the workshop was a reading and discussion on poet Natalie Diaz’s “Abecedarian Requiring Further Examination of Anglikan Seraphym Subjugation of a Wild Indian Rezervation.” After the reading, a video of the author reading the poem aloud was shown.

Jasmine Charles 20’ shared her thoughts on the piece, and the message she took from it. “The Diaz poem was a piece that really challenged a lot of revered opinions about religion, especially Christianity. And to me it really correlated to the theme of reclaiming space because Diaz was saying “this is what white colonists tried to force upon people like myself, and here I am to say that’s not going to work”. Her poem was a message that stated she was reclaiming these spaces, such as personal traditions, faith, and the physical land that had been taken from her. To me, it simply has to do with remaining autonomous because there still remains a lot of social and systemic pressures that try to tell marginalized people how to behave.”

Another workshop with OASIS next week will be held next week, as well as other CIA Week events through November 5th.