Campus News

An Artist Speaks

In the midst of midterm week, Clint Smith visited Saint Leo University to brighten the day with a show of Spoken Word Poetry. This event was sponsored by SGU, CAB, CSA, MISO and Students Activities and held on Feb. 22 at 6 pm in Boardrooms B&C.

A flight delay for Smith caused the show to start 30 minutes later, but the audience waited patiently. The show started with a performance of Vashaad Gordon Fincher, a talented member of the Slam Poetry Club on campus.

Joshua Bartholomew, 2016 SGU president, then nicely announced Smith as he took the stage. Smith did not use the microphone, as he wanted to pay close attention to his audience. He started by introducing himself; a writer, award-winning teacher, acclaimed spoken word poet, and a social scientist that is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Harvard University.

Smith’s intro was followed by one of his poems. Smith captivated his audience for a full hour with his poetry and left each guest in awe.

Born and raised in New Orleans, the talented poet raised the issue of racism and the fear of African American parents for their kids not to have been safe in the streets because of the color of their skin. He also recited a poem about slavery.

Smith presented several pieces from his first poetry collection “Counting Descent,” published in 2016. This work of art draws on the violence experienced by Black people, their joy, and contribution to society. Some of the poems he performed amused the audience, while some others engaged them in deep thought.

At the end of the performance, audience members had some burning questions, such as “Where do you find inspiration for the themes you describe in your poems?” and “how did your first performance as a poet go?”

To the former, Smith responded that he tries, in his artistic personal political project, to use art to serve as a catalyst for a broader conversation about inequality and justice. He is fortunate and blessed to be a writer and a graduate student whose job is to be authentic and write about such things.

“So, to what extent can I use what I’m learning, and sort of synthesize and write them down into things that may be more accessible to people? I am really inspired by what history tells us about ourselves. And I think that part of this moment that we’re in now, it’s that we fail to understand the history that brought us here,” Smith said.

To the latter, Smith responded that his first performance changed his life. He thinks the best writers are the best readers.

To those interested in writing, Smith offered some encouraging advice.

“If your story isn’t being told then you need to write about it,” he said.

Some of the attendees were already familiar with the work of the esteemed guest speaker. Edson O’Neale, director for student activities, reflected on the day he first met Smith.

“I went to a conference in the fall, in Nov., and he was a keynote speaker at the conference. He blew me away from his talk that I felt like what he said he would have a lot to offer to our students, so I wanted to bring him,” O’Neale said.

O’Neale found Smith’s performance as great as it was the first time he saw him. However, he wished that more students had come and stayed to see the performance. The issues discussed were the type of things he feels students need to hear and will inspire them to do great things. He offered special thanks to all of those who made an effort to come and support the event.  

Paige Ramsey-Hamacher, director for multicultural and international services, shared her great appreciation for the artist.

“I think it was an amazing event. He is a fantastic speaker. Every single one of his poems spoke volumes in so short a time. I would bring him back to our students if I could,” Ramsey-Hamacher said.

Those who wanted to know the artist a little more in depth bought his poetry collection “Counting Descent” at the end of the show. Those who missed the event can get to know Smith a little better by checking out his website at

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