Bringing a passion for rhythm, poetry and social justice, Anthony Morales ’98 returned to campus for a spoken word poetry performance last Friday in Kemper Auditorium.
Raised in the Bronx, NY, Morales is a Puerto Rican-American “Nuyorican” teacher and spoken word poet. He was featured on HBO’s spoken word poetry television series, Def Poetry.
Many of Morales’ poems centered on the social issues of those from underprivileged backgrounds.
Morales started his performance with a poem about identity that he had written while attending Andover. The poem began with with “Yo soy,” Spanish for “I am,” and discussed Morales’ distaste for stereotypes based on ethnicity.
He continued with “Affirmative Proaction,” a poem about the role of music, role models and education in minority communities. Morales sang several lines in his poem, discussing the benefits of better education in communities where “The air slaps you just for thinking.”
After reciting the poem, Morales shared some of his experiences as an English teacher in New York City.Morales said he has been trying to give kids a space to find their voices the way Andover did for him.
Morales also said that teaching has provided inspiration for his poetry.
“I write a lot with my students. Sometimes they’ll say something and it’ll be like a found poem,” said Morales on stage.
“Dedication to Piri Thomas” was one of the most personal poems of the night. Inspired the book “Hunger of Memory” by Richard Rodriguez, which Morales read as a teenager, the poem discusses the conflict between higher education and cultural roots.
According to Morales, the book had been the first that he felt truly spoke to him on a personal level. The poem dealt with the search for recognition as a racial minority. It followed the story of a young man who discovered literature while in prison and decided to track down the author.
“It was really cool how Morales used Spanish in addition to English,” said Maita Eyzaguirre ’14. “It made what he was saying much more personal, and many of the things he said in Spanish were really meaningful.”
“Cuatro” was inspired by one of the biggest lessons Morales had learned from Andover, which is the ability to ask the question “Why?”
He spoke of taking the lessons he had learned back to the Bronx, where there were many deserving young people who never got the privileges he did.
Morales’ final poem, “Story Avenue,” began with “This ain’t a poem trying to tell you stories / This is a story out of a poem.” Morales spoke about the “invisible ones” in society, from inner city kids to forgotten soldiers. While Morales spoke of the negative sides of the chaos of city life, he ultimately concluded, “I couldn’t make this scene sound more pretty / This is my city.”
“I thought that he had some great advice about life not ending with Andover. That is something I need to remind myself of sometimes,” said Ravn Jenkins ’15.