Laughter, tears and snaps filled the living room of Quinby House as students listened to world-renowned spoken word poet Carlos Andrés Gómez on Tuesday. For almost two hours, students were captivated by Gómez’s performance, which explored topics ranging from cultural identities to genocide to gender roles. 

Often speaking from personal experience as a social worker in Harlem and the Bronx and a public school teacher in Philadelphia, Gómez delivered a performance that not only brought attention to social issues but also demanded change. The reading was preceded by a poetry workshop. 

The idea of a complex, multifaceted identity is a major theme in Gómez’s performances. The workshop he led focused on creating dialogue across different identities. 

“You can’t argue with someone’s story. You can’t have a political opinion about a story,” said Gómez. “It’s a subversive way of having people engage and experience to build meaningful empathy and understanding and complicate people’s notions of things in a way that’s not intellectualized and detached.”

Having both first heard Gómez in high school, Latin American Student Organization (LASO)  board member Sergio Gomez ’16 and Quinby House Programming Director Osakhare Omoregie ’18 contacted Gómez through Facebook, hoping he would come speak at Bowdoin about Latinx identity.

“One thing about his poetry that I felt Bowdoin as a campus really needed is the focus on humanity,” said Omoregie. “His poems—while from first glance might seem to be targeting certain kinds of people—in actual truth, he’s bringing up that everyone has their faults but the first step to recovery is to admit that there’s a problem.”

Sensing a lack of discussion regarding Latinx identity on campus, Gomez hoped this event would shed some light on the Latinx experience.

“Issues such as immigration are really hot topics nationally, but not really on our campus, [which] kind of gave me this sense of invisibility amongst us,” said Gomez. “I think it’s now more than ever that we could really use someone who can talk about the Latinx experience and bring a sense of presence that we are here. We are a part of this community.”

Bowdoin’s own Slam Poets’ Society kicked the performance off with a ten-minute opening set. Co-leader Violet Ranson ’16 felt that Gómez’s performance provided a new and empathetic perspective to the issues currently pervading campus, a welcome validation to many of the members of LASO and Slam Poets’ Society.

John Medina ’18 similarly conveyed the importance of Gómez’s performance to many students on campus. 

“I feel that yesterday’s event with Carlos Andrés Gómez was necessary to remind us during this difficult time, although we’re being told that we don’t matter or people want our voices to be shut down, we’re reminded that we are beautiful people and we do deserve to be here,” said Medina.

Throughout the performance, Gómez invited audience members to share their thoughts and feelings about their identity, empowering listeners to be their most authentic selves in a difficult time.

“I want, in my performances, people to feel seen and affirmed and challenged, and if they leave with one thing, I hope that everyone leaves feeling like they’re enough,” said Gómez. “ I hope that people laughed and cried and got upset and got inspired and felt a range of emotions.”
Gómez related to the audience humorous anecdotes from his performances in various cities in the United States that reveal serious social insensitivities and cultural unawareness.

“I think about things in an intersectional way, grappling with all of us being human beings that carry multiple identities simultaneously and thinking about the implications in terms of power dynamics and access that that has for all of us,” said Gómez. “I talk about race and sexuality and gender, a wide range of identities, and I hope that people think about themselves in more complicated ways.”