The message of Martin Luther King Jr.—to accept others’ differences, raise people up, and help the less fortunate—was in evidence during Saint Leo University’s Martin Luther King Day activities.
The university celebrated A Day On, Not Off, featuring spoken word artist Oveous on January 16, and partnered on January 12 with Feeding Children Everywhere. The goal was to help eradicate hunger and poverty, in memory of King.
A veteran performer on Showtime at the Apollo, a HBO Def Poet, and a three-time national poetry contest finalist, Oveous (Raphael Salcedo) brought his rhythm and rhymes to the university’s boardrooms. “I traveled from the other side of the world to be with you,” he said, as he recently performed in Melbourne, Australia. From the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York, he describes himself as an African-Caribbean American.
Oveous said his poems “speak to the social construct of the time we’re living in now. It’s good we keep talking.”
Echoing one of his heroes, King, he said, “Until we’re all equal, none of us are equal.”
Oveous moved into his poem “Take a Knee,” depicting the protest by some NFL players against racial injustice. “Sometimes you gotta kneel to get people to stand up . . . So we take a knee to the face of hatred . . . take a knee for the blood on the field, the blood of this flag, the blood of this soil that I want to call home . . . I’m going to take the knee until we touchdown on the only goal that matters: our right to be equal.”
He said it is obvious that there are a lot of issues in the United States. He has been traveling since late 2016 to Japan, South America, Europe, and elsewhere. “The one thing I’ve seen in common,” Oveous said, “is that people tend to pretty much be the same. Clearly we have more similarities than differences. It doesn’t matter if you’re black, white, brown, green like the Hulk, or purple like Prince.”
Oveous cited Martin Luther King Jr. and said, “There is no such thing as race but the human race.”
His family ties form the foundation of several poems including “Dulce de Leche,” which was inspired by his mother. He said dulce, which means “candy or sweet confection” in Spanish, is a metaphor for her beauty. Leche, which means “milk” in Spanish, is a metaphor for his mother’s strength.
“My mother spent 270 days. 270 days letting her bones lift and organs shift.
To make room in the womb. For you and me
The future generation, cause when you’re born
It’s appreciation para esa leche.”
His feminist ode to women concludes, “And the way I see it, this will always be a man's world . . . But under a woman’s supervision.”
Oveous took on the addiction to devices and social media in his poem “Digital Humans (The I-Poem),” rapping each word and reference to iPhones, iPads, iTunes, and other electronics in rapid fire succession. He thanked his Saint Leo audience for being in the moment and not looking at their phones.
The suicide of his brother, Carlos “Ziiinc Blue” Salcedo, prompted him to share his voice with others. “The meaning of life is to follow your gift,” Oveous said. “And the purpose of life is to give it away.”
Saint Leo continued King’s legacy of giving to the community by packaging meals for Feeding Children Everywhere as part of A Day On, Not Off. They scooped and poured lentils, white rice, dehydrated vegetables, and pink Himalayan salt to form jambalaya mixes. The goal was to package 70,000 meals for the Tampa area.
Karina Brown, a freshman criminal justice major, said King meant a lot to her family. “He inspired me to do this—to help,” Brown said.
“It’s about giving back,” said Jerry Wiltshire, a graduate student, working on his Master of Business Administration degree. “There are a lot of Greeks [fraternities and sororities] volunteering today. We want to show that there is more to Greek Life than partying. It is all about giving back to the community. We’re paying it forward.”