Being a student artist has been a very exciting experience at Columbia. As an international student, art served as a creative and probably the most effective way for me to connect with my colleagues and participate in the larger college community.
From the onset, poetry gave me an easier access to campus events and NYC as a whole; opening doors to groups, organizations, individuals, and communities that I had cultural and philosophical differences from.
Realizing the absence of much African culture and politics during most of the campus discource and events I participated in, I embraced the challenge of introducing my new friends to as much of African (Ghanaian) culture as possible. I sometimes began my performances by singing an African tune or tied an issue the continent was dealing with to my poem. We would sometimes go and back forth from each other’s dorms discussing politics, arts and poetry.
Beyond playing soccer in front of Butler whenever the green flags were up, which is where I also made my first CU friends; Rooted discussions at the IRC, and hosting radio at WKCR served as mediums for finding community and the much needed ice breakers I needed for the cultural revolution I was about to experience in Columbia and New York.
My path to establishing myself as a poet and subsequently a musician took quite an unusual path. I began hosting a series of poetry reading events in my apartment during my early College days of trying to raise funds for school. In avoiding fund-raising without giving anything in return, I hosted my poetry reading sessions/ culture shock story telling sessions with servings of tasty African delicacy which I ordered from the Ghanaian restaurant across the morning side park on Fred Douglas.
We ate African food, shared stories and discussed international politics while I topped it all with poetry, then tired to raise funds. The readings led to invitations to other events, which led to meeting other artists, which brought more exciting opportunities to share my work and interact with colleagues representing different countries, states, communities and backgrounds. I learned more during some of those discussions that I did taking some courses.
Recording my poetry and music would only occur as a matter of time. None of this has happened without my intense curiosity about other cultures, and deep sense for bringing everyone together to have fun creatively. There have been several bumps on the road, but overall, my Columbia experience would have been incomplete without creative communities, and outlets for my poetry and music. There is so much to be done to enhance the experience of student artists on campus, but there is still so much resource and opportunity on campus that makes the experience worthwhile. The highlight of experience as an artist was when we (The African Students Association) received funding to host Saul Williams and Soulfege at the Miller Theater for our “Sweet Mother Concert, an event which I had the privilege of coordinating. Argghh … memories. It’s been fun!
Ishmael Adjetey Osekre