By Kate Jeracki
Xavier Hadley, who is graduating from Colorado State University this month with a double major in creative writing and ethnic studies, is the winner of the annual Black/African American Cultural Center’s spoken word competition. He will perform his poem, The Incredible Ferrari Boat Mobile, in the Lory Student Center on Jan. 20, 2020, as part of the University’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day observance.
A musician and photographer who has worked as an intern with the External Relations photo department, Hadley said that at first he struggled with how to express the competition’s theme of “Preservation and Manifestation.”
“I thought about all the people who came before me who worked to preserve themselves, and to help keep me alive, and here I am, manifested,” he said. “Then I thought about what I can manifest and bring into the world that they wouldn’t have been able to do.”
He decided to write a poem that would “bind black American history with modern life, through the perspective of material goods pressed on us by the media.” The Incredible Ferrari Boat Mobile reimagines the fates of captured Africans who were thrown overboard during the Middle Passage to the Americas. The piece works from a speculative space that attempts to reconcile the pain experienced by those people who did not survive the Atlantic Slave Trade.
CAN YOU HELP ME MANIFEST THIS DOPE ASS WHIP
SO I CAN TAKE TO THE STREETS
AND THE ATLANTIC
’CAUSE THIS THING—
IT’S GONNA BE A BOAT TOO
AND IM GON’ USE IT
AROUND AND OVER
ACROSS AND THROUGH
THE VAST DEEP BLUE
SEARCHING FOR MY ROOTS,
AND WHEN I FIND THEM
DARK BODIED BABIES
SWIMMING LAPS AGAINST THE TIDE
IMMA BE LIKE
“WHAT Y’ALL BEEN DOING? SWIMMING
FOR OVER 400 YEARS??”
Judges of the competition, held at the Lory Student Center in November, were particularly impressed with his “willingness to share about themselves and be vulnerable,” according to Adrian Jones, student development and retention coordinator for B/AACC.
Poetry and performance
Hadley, who is from Aurora, said he has always been interested in poetry, and enjoys being a performing artist. He has appeared at open mic nights in Denver and when he spent an Education Abroad semester in Ghana.
“I went to Ghana because I like the people who had gone there, and I saw the growth in them when they returned,” Hadley said. “They told us to bring something that we could share with the people there.” He brought poetry and performance.
The trip to Ghana was a grounding experience for Hadley, much more so than his time at CSU, where “there are not a lot of people who look like me.”
“In Ghana, I was grounded in a different historical context, where people care for each other in different ways, related to money and family in different ways, and speak and relate to each other in different ways,” he explained. “I think the experience made me more patient in many ways.”
After graduation, Hadley will begin a job in the Denver Public Schools as part of YASPA, Young Aspiring Americans for Social and Political Action, a Denver-based organization that encourages disengaged and underserved youth to participate in their communities, pursue social science degrees and careers in social justice.