Expressing U.R.Self with Spoken Word

Uncultivated Rabbits is the only spoken word and preforming arts organization at UCI. Created in 2005 by three students who wanted to express themselves through the art of spoken word, at first, Uncultivated Rabbits was just a small circle of students who gathered to share their poetry, but over the years they have grown to have a presence in both the UCI community and the Orange County area. Over the past nine years, this tight-knit group of students from a variety of majors have gathered to perform at showcases both on and off campus, to create workshops for students at UCI to take part in and to find themselves and who they are through this form of expression.

The “Express U.R.Self” showcase is a space for the Uncultivated Rabbit members to truly show who they are. The current president, Kelly Kimball, a second-year literary journalism major and digital arts minor, claims that the

first “Express U.R. Self” showcase was created by “Nghiem Le to celebrate the talents that are in the UR community and spread the message of respecting oneself and expressing oneself and finding ways to invest creatively oneself.”

This year for the second annual “Express U.R.Self,” the community gathered to watch the performances by the eight executive board members, two musicians and Joshua Bennett.

The first portion of the event consisted of student performances. Whether it was through music or poetry, the “rabbits” took the floor with courage and humility. All of the performances were fully memorized and elaborate. Although the common claim made before each performance was that they were scared or afraid, it was clear that their inner rabbit would speak and portray themselves because each performance was natural and organic. Each performer painted a picture so vivid that it was as if we had a part of their memory after the four to five minute period of expression.

Dajanae Barrows, a fourth-year English major and the vice president of Uncultivated Rabbits found her love for spoken word early on in college. She said that when she first came to UCI, she met Nghiem Le, one of the Uncultivated Rabbit alums, and he encouraged her to take part in UR. After two months of college, Nghiem seeked her out because of her strong interest in spoken word. This shows that this tight knit community is open to everyone because everyone has a bit of poetry in their lives. After being part of this club for four years, she has been able to not only see the growth of the club, but also each member.

Barrows claims that “each person has a special type of speaking that is unique to them. It is special and is magic to hear their stories.” Although she is graduating this year, she will always be a rabbit.

In regards to their second “Express U.R. Self” showcase, she claims that this showcase is a way that the Rabbits can “express themselves and their most vulnerable; express themselves through how they dress and what they say; express their most honest, empirical, and crazy experience.”

The second portion of this event consisted of performances by Joshua Bennett, their featured guest and collaborative partner for this event. Joshua Bennett is a spoken word poet from The Striver’s Row, a spoken word collaborative that exists in New York. He is a well- known spoken word artist who has performed for a variety of groups. At the showcase he performed four pieces. Each piece was crafted uniquely and carried a story to the general audience. His last piece of the night led to a standing ovation by the audience because the power of his words were so evident and the craft of each line was so creative and pure.

At the end, the Uncultivated Rabbits invited everyone in the audience to participate in their club tradition in putting their hands in and yelling “reproduce.” This tradition stems from their name. They call themselves Uncultivated Rabbits: “uncultivated” representing produce because they want their words and everything to be organic and “rabbits” representing the act of reproducing because they hope to keep reproducing and sharing their words. Kimball claims that their investment in “Express U.R.Self” is not so that they can make money, but it is an investment in an art form that anyone can take part it. According to Kimball, people inherently want to be creative and have forms of expressing themselves. No auditions are held because they believe everyone should be able to cultivate their art form in this “science skewed world.” Uncultivated Rabbits has created this safe space; how will you Express Yourself?