Most people would not immediately associate Amiri Baraka and Rihanna, but guest lecturer Mike Chasar made an entire presentation connecting the two.
The associate professor of English from Willamette University presented his research for the first time on Tuesday in the Dresher Center for the Humanities in the Performing Arts and Humanities Building.
Originating as a dare from one of his students, Chasar’s lecture was titled “From Baraka to Rihanna: Legacies of the Black Arts Movement.”
The presentation opened with Amiri Baraka’s poem, “SOS,” and a short interpretation of the piece. It was then followed by and juxtaposed against Rihanna’s single, “SOS.” Chasar then took the audience on a journey of the meaning of the acronym SOS, all the while showing its prominence in culture throughout the years.
At the end of Chasar’s address, he opened the floor to the audience for a question and answer session. Among those who posed questions was Deborah Kadiri, a graduate student studying texts, technologies and literacy.
“I think it is really interesting to see how certain aspects of black culture are perceived and represented from the white perspective, especially from that of an academic,” said Kadiri.
She touched on the disparity of being a researcher, while not a part of that specific culture.
“What is interesting to me is the tension that is evident while simultaneously being a researcher and an outsider, so I think that was something that also brought me out as I wanted to see how [Chasar] would marry the two,” said Kadiri.
Kadiri felt that this event was an important step in larger discussions regarding representation and identity.
“As a student who is studying history, I think it is important to look at things like this through the black perspective to establish a sense of representation and identity,” said Kadiri.
She concluded by talking a briefly about how this would impact the community in the long term.
“There are not many black educators that are presenting points from the black perspective so, as an aspiring educator, I would like to bridge that gap.”