By Carrie Fox
Recently, award-winning Salvadoran American poet, activist and teacher Willy Palomo came to Willamette to speak and lead a workshop for students in Latinx Communication Studies, that I had the opportunity to partake in. He lead us through exercises on performance techniques and analysis on various artistic works.
Palomo pushed us out of our comfort zones and moved us to think about the way we present ourselves and the message we are trying to convey to different audiences. Together we worked on body language, voice projection and being vulnerable in front of a group of people. I know I personally appreciated the opportunity to see what we’ve been learning in my Latinx Communication Studies course come to life in front of me. It is one thing to read Palomo’s work on paper and discuss it as a class, but having him here first hand is something I will never forget.
According to Palomo’s website, he “learned poetry from the worlds of hip-hop and slam,” and has instructed creative writing in diverse settings, including in universities, juvenile detention centers and high schools. Palomo is currently finishing an MFA in poetry and an MA in Latin American and Caribbean Studies at Indiana University. In addition to his performances and studies, he also founded UndocuHoosiers Bloomington, an organization dedicated to supporting undocumented communities in Indiana.
What is so special about Palomo is the way he takes his experiences and brings them to the stage through spoken word. His performances are insightful, interactive and encourage important conversations that transcend the performances themselves. His poems include stories from both his perspective and the perspective of people he’s close to. For example, his poem titled “Witness” is written from the perspective of his mother who was a survivor and refugee of US backed Civil War in El Salvador. He also writes a lot about his family and their experiences both growing up and in the United States and his own life and experiences as well including his faith, language and poetry/writing in general.
Willamette got to experience one of these special readings on March 20. Audience members in Cat Cavern witnessed a performance which included several poems about his experiences as the child of two immigrants from El Salvador. The event also offered a panel with local immigrant and migrant rights advocates, including members of Causa and WU Causa, along with an interactive Zine Walk, featuring work by student artists in the Latinx Communication Studies course. In addition to the larger event, Palomo met with students for a KMUZ radio interview, for a lunch discussion about movement organization at the Equity and Empowerment Center.
Palomo’s work can be found on his website, PalomoPoemas.com CCTV’s Luis Mendoza recorded the March 20th WU performance, available on La Chispa’s Facebook page as well as on YouTube: “Poet Willy Palomo at Willamette University.” Palomo’s radio interview with students Tyler Zehrung and Veris Schmidt is accessible via KMUZ.org and in the podcast archive of La Chispa’s website, available on the Civic Communication and Media homepage. Student zine creations from Latinx Communication Studies students also are/will be available on this website.
If you are interested in supporting future im/migrant justice events, CAUSA is planning a May Day rally. More information is available at http://causaoregon.org/
Palomo’s visit was co-sponsored by La Chispa, an environmental justice communication project, a Learning by Creating Mellon Grant, the Civic Communication and Media Department and the Latin American Studies and American Ethnic Studies programs.