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Sixth annual ‘Passing the Mic’ spoken-word series to feature Latin flair

September 10, 2010

Latin rhythms will set a flavorful beat for the sixth annual Passing the Mic spoken-word series Thursday, Sept. 30-Saturday, Oct. 2, in the Wisconsin Historical Society auditorium, 816 State St.

The events are free and open to the public.

Sponsored by the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Office of Multicultural Arts Initiatives (OMAI) and the Wisconsin Book Festival, this year’s series will celebrate OMAI’s fifth anniversary with Mark Gonzales and Liza Garza of HBO’s Def Poetry, Susana Chavez-Silverman, the First Wave Hip-Hop Theater Ensemble and the Midwest Youth Slam All-Stars.

On Thursday, Sept. 30, “Shattering Americana, Stitching Ourselves” will kick off at 7 p.m. with Gonzales, who has shared stages with literary, hip-hop and academic icons across the globe. With a master’s degree in education from the University of California at Los Angeles and a legacy of lyrical work, Gonzales blends cultural pedagogy, hip hop and spoken word into curriculum, classrooms and facilities.

Also performing Sept. 30 is Emmy Award-nominated Garza, who keeps listeners captivated while provoking social change and action in the community. With a degree in performance activism from the University of Michigan, she performs and speaks on topics related to women, hip hop and culture at colleges, universities and conferences.

Sept. 30’s third guest performer, Susanna Chavez-Silverman, grew up bilingually and biculturally among Los Angeles, Madrid and Guadalajara, Mexico. She is currently professor of Spanish, Latino/a and Latin American studies in the Department of Romance Languages and Literature at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif.

Rounding out the evening will be the Midwest Spoken Word All-Stars, a group of student performers from across the Midwest.

On Friday, Oct. 1, the First Wave Hip Hop Theater Ensemble Presents “I am Mary Lou” a performance dedicated to jazz musician Mary Lou Williams with a special post-performance discussion with the First Wave cast and legendary jazz performer and UW–Madison professor Richard Davis. Patrick Sims, UW–Madison associate professor of acting, will moderate the discussion.

The Oct. 1 program will be held in conjunction with the Mary Lou Williams Fall Festival Weekend and Centennial Celebration (

The discussion will be followed by a special Passing the Mic/Just Bust Spoken Word & Hip-Hop Open Mic at 8 p.m., hosted by Gonzales and First Wave, featuring the Midwest Youth Slam All-Stars. The signup for guest poets is at 7:30 p.m.

On Saturday, Oct. 2, the First Wave Hip-Hop Theater Ensemble will present “Turbulence: The Eve of Crashing,” a hip-hop production recently presented in Manchester, England at the Contacting the World Festival.

Rooted in the voice of American youth, “Turbulence” examines what happens between that blissful point of takeoff and the moment it all comes crashing down. Following the show, there will be a discussion with the cast.

First Wave is a cutting-edge multicultural artistic program for UW–Madison students and the first university program in the nation centered on spoken word and hip-hop culture.

Each year, the program admits a 15-member cohort into a close-knit, dynamic campus learning community, which is overseen by the UW–Madison Office of Multicultural Arts Initiatives. For more information, visit