This evening, Stanzas, a poetry and literary collective will host a two hour online event from 7pm to 9pm streamed live on Facebook, featuring three guest speakers followed by an open mic. Their aim is to use their platform to promote black talent from Limerick and beyond in an effort to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement that is happening worldwide.

Established six years ago, Stanzas commits to inclusivity and providing people with a space to express themselves. The result of reflection on the global attention of the BLM movement this past month,  the open mic is intended to give people of ethnic minorities a voice and support the movement.

Usually focused on a theme promoted the month beforehand, Stanzas is organised through an open call to anyone who wishes to take part in the next month’s session. Following a unanimous agreement, the group decided to leave the floor open for June and offer a platform to black creators whose voices are frequently overlooked, Vinnie Hussey, the current spearhead of Stanzas explained.

“How the layout looks is a two hour event, the first will be the guest speakers followed by an open conversation where we can talk about the issues that the poetry is addressing whilst taking names for anyone who wishes to join the open mic,” said Hussey.

“We reached out to poets everyone involved in Stanzas has come across before or would like to hear again. Focusing this month on BLM, Stanzas can use its platform to raise awareness for these voices as the selection of black voices in Limerick and Ireland is small,” he added.

Due to the outbreak of Covid-19, Stanzas have had to adapt to social distancing rules so having an online space has become an incredibly valuable tool. Guest speaker Zen a.k.a. TheLastPoetZen was contacted to take part because of his involvement in the open mic and poetry scene in Cork City and will use the event to speak about the issues at hand rather than reading poetry.

Having released an album in the beginning of the year which addresses racial issues in Ireland and globally, Zen believes that at this point, it’s no longer a performance. “I think I have to talk, more like questions and answers to open the space for a discussion,” he explained.

“I can give examples because we were involved in two protests in Cork City already and a lot of white Irish were confused as to why we were protesting. They don’t think there is racism in Ireland and of course, my opinion is that yes, you might not see it like that because the racism in Ireland is hidden,” said Zen .

Zen hopes that Stanzas’ event is not a trend but an opening for further discussion about an ongoing systemic issue which is not going to be solved overnight, holding a strong belief that protests should be ongoing until we see change rather than flare-ups reacting to particularly horrendous incidences of racism.

“I was very excited that I got asked to take part in the event, and for me I see it as a great opportunity to express what’s going on and maybe make some people aware that might not already be,” he added.

Engaging in conversation and pointing out experiences will be a key element of Zen’s use of the platform Stanzas will be providing and its importance.

“For me it’s progress to see white Irish people organizing this event because my story is being acknowledged by somebody else who’s not facing it. That’s why this event is so important and I would like to see more similar things happening,” Zen said.

Stanzas June is a publicly-accessible Zoom call starting at 7pm on Friday June 26th. The link will posted on their social media in advance.