All-Femme Team Organizes Open Mic; Safe Space for Black Artists

Local Artists Come Together to Celebrate Black History Month

  • Tihitina “Titi” Semahu—one of the host of Woke or whateva—delivers a heartfelt rendition of one of her poems Photo Elias Grigoriadis

  • Rebecca “Becky” Joachim, Tihitina “Titi” Semahu, and Rubie Jean-Baptiste were thinking of their first event, an open-mic night was the immediate answer. Photo Elias Grigoriadis

  • Despite it being her first time singing in front of a crowd, Chelsea St-Jean blew the audience away with her authenticity, and her passion. Photo Elias Grigoriadis

“As People of Colour, we often judge ourselves and limit ourselves because we’re afraid to get out of the stereotypes that are put upon us,” said singer Chelsea St-Jean. “In here, you can do whatever style you want with the support you actually need to push through.

That’s exactly what Friday night was about. Rebecca “Becky” Joachim and Tihitina “Titi” Semahu, cohosts of the podcast Woke or whateva put up an open mic night celebrating Black History Month alongside fellow poet and entrepreneur Rubie Jean-Baptiste.

“Our goal is not just to have a podcast, we want to do other things with the community,” said Semahu. “Me and Rubie are both poets, we were attending a few poetry nights together and we knew that we had to collab and do an event together and that we had to make it an open mic for the first one.”

Despite the 30 cm of snow that came down on Friday night, nearly 50 people came out to show support and embrace some of the talents on display, and there was a great deal of it.

Poetry and spoken word touching on heartbreak, mental health, racism, and one performer’s disdain with Black History Month was sprinkled through beautiful singing performances just like St-Jean’s.

“My poem was really personal and mental health is really something we don’t talk about in the Black community so being able to be vulnerable like that was really nice.” — Brandon Jean-Gillies

“This is my first time ever reading my poetry out loud, and it was pretty intimidating but everyone here is just so cool and welcoming,” said poet Brandon Jean-Gillies. “My poem was really personal and mental health is really something we don’t talk about in the Black community so being able to be vulnerable like that was really nice.”

Mental health was the most touched upon subject of the evening. Family, relationships, sexuality, racism—every topic and everyone were welcome to come up to the mic and share their feelings.

The crowd was also extremely supportive. From first-time performers stumbling on their lines to performers doubting whether or not they should continue, emphatic cheers from the crowd and emphatic support were the only constant of the evening.

“There aren’t as many people tonight [because of the snow] but everyone here is awesome and so into it,” said Semahu. “If this is how the crowd is going to be then we don’t need more people.”

The crowd’s support was something that wasn’t lost on the performers either. Almost as though a weight was lifted off their shoulders after seeing just how warm and welcoming the attendees were.

Photo Elias Grigoriadis

“I was really nervous about getting up in front of everyone but once you start to get in the rhythm and people started hyping me up it felt a lot better,” said St-Jean, who has been singing and writing songs most of her life. “I’m definitely going to start taking it more seriously and looking for other stuff like this.”

But the minds behind Woke or whateva have more plans than just open mic nights, and Friday night was proof of just how far their reach goes.

On Feb. 11, they’ll be hosting a panel at CEGEP Montmorency on the topic of their first episode, “Race class 101,” where they break down topics like colourism and reverse racism.

“Hosting other events like discussions and workshops are definitely things we have on our radar,” said Semahu. “We’ve always wanted to push this farther and farther so a first event like this getting this kind of turnout is so awesome.”

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