Spoken word legends The Last Poets perform at Iona College


Commencing Black History month, the Last Poets took the stage at the Endzone

Jocelyn Arroyo-Ariza and Katherine Daly

The LaPenta Student Union End Zone was transformed into a stage thanks to a performance from The Last Poets on Feb. 1, celebrating the start of Black History Month.  


The Last Poets are a group of poets and musicians who formed in the late 1960s during the civil rights movement. Their name derives from a poem by revolutionary South African poet Keorapetse Kgositsile, who thought he was in the last era of poetry before violence would take over. The initial group formed on the anniversary of Malcom X’s birthday on May 19, 1968, by David Nelson, Gylan Kain, and Abiodun Oyewole.  


Recently, they have collaborated with prominent artists such as Nas, Common, Erykah Badu, Kanye West, Styles P. and Dead Prez on award winning projects. The group has also performed in the inaugural season of HBO’s “Def Poetry Jam,” starred in the movie “Poetic Justice,” participated in the 1994 Lollapalooza and performed in venues around the world.  


A majority of their work speaks of ideas of individuality, equality, humanity, history, expression, race and politics. At the event, they each told powerful stories of the struggles of urban life and the power and oppression that still haunts them. One such individual was Cheslie Kryst, a celebrity who won the Miss USA title in 2019 but committed suicide on Jan. 30. Another story was about the time that American footballer Colin Kaepernick was not signed by any teams after taking a knee during the national anthem. The conversation was wide-ranging, covering both serious topics such as racist issues in America and lighthearted topics such as the Winter Olympics.  


Early on in the show, The Last Poets discussed how important Black History Month can be. Not only were they explaining it, but their goal at Iona College was to help students set aside a time to honor Black History, helping to raise awareness for issues that their community still faces. They provided context for the idea behind Black History Month, as it goes beyond what you learn in textbooks.  


Even as the idea of antiracism has grown, the hosts stressed that it’s important to learn more. A student should recognize and grasp the impact many African Americans have made on our country. This perspective is a rather significant one for our generation to see, since most current college students aren’t aware of the issue that racism brings or can’t recognize it. The only view many students have received has been from textbooks or other similar sources which show the mass media’s perspective. Therefore, it is easy for students to not understand the impact African American culture has on society. This event helped Iona students focus on the Black experience in the United States and western society.