“Spoken Word” course speaks loudly

Photos Courtesy of Dr. Nzadi Keita

Shelsea Deravil


Before the on-campus semester was cut short, one of the most interesting phenomena at Ursinus came from the English course “Spoken Word,” taught by Dr. Nzadi Keita, associate professor and co-coordinator of English and African American/Africana Studies, which organized public readings on campus to help students develop their delivery skills and contribute to literary culture. 

“The public readings give the students a chance to practice [delivery] with a random audience that’s beyond the audience of the class,” said Keita. “Partially, they’re in a comfort zone …  they can control to a certain degree who is in the audience because they invite people. It gives them more agency to create the events.”

Indeed, the public readings were coordinated and organized by the students themselves. They had to reserve a space on campus to hold their readings and promote via a flyer or email to invite the campus to come show support. 

The course’s first public reading was held on Feb. 24, at noon, in the Myrin Library by students Stevie Gardner ’20 and Keith Graves ’23. Cyn Ercole ’21, another student in the “Spoken Word” course, reflected on the reading. “I thought our first reading went well, even though there was a small audience. Given that, I felt more comfortable sharing my poems, [especially my revised ones] with the class.”

Two more public readings were planned, but won’t take place. Instead, students will be sharing their work on a digital storytelling platform called “SWAY.”