Activist and Slam Poet Andrea Gibson Visits Davidson

Matthew Landini – Andrea Gibson is the unexpected remedy to an unexpected election. Gibson performed in the Lily Gallery on Wednesday, November 9th.

With many students mourning the election results – the Lily Gallery was full of puffy eyes and red noses – Gibson arrived: calm, cool, collected, and entirely punk rock. Gibson is a slam poet whose work focuses on LGBTQ rights, the intersection of sex and gender, and the challenges inherent in capitalism, patriarchal dominance, and tribalism. Gibson identifies as, “a queer performance poet with panic attacks and extreme stage fright who has been touring full-time for over decade.” Previously, Gibson toured with Vox Feminista, a collection of likeminded feminists (artists and performers) determined to inspire a cultural revolution.

While at Davidson, Gibson painted pictures of a classic rock America. The poems flow subtly together – creating a strange amalgamation of perspectives transmuted by Gibson’s connection to the subjects, which range from places and friends to adversaries and lovers. Neon signs blur along downtown streets; long stretches of open highway connect East to West; towns decay around forgotten factories; a young girl strikes out in her last little league game. Much like Bruce Springsteen, Gibson strikes a relatable chord, while offering progressive insight into the real America.

Savva Martyshev ’19, who helped organize the event through the Union Board, said, “[The show was] by far my favorite part of the week. There was so much raw emotion in that short performance. It was incredible. [Andrea’s] first poem touched me the most, it was almost as if the entire audience melted away and Andrea was the only person in the room, radiating light.”

Gibson performed alone on stage, accompanied occasionally by subtle acoustic guitar riffs and gentle piano refrains.

Gibson prefaced the performance by reminding the crowd to embrace their emotions as needed. Hug, kiss, cry – leave and recover, if necessary. Everyone is welcome and everyone should feel safe.

First-year Kayla Edwards ’20 also connected the show with the election, saying, “On campus, there were definitely calls to be active in the face of injustice, or rational in the processing of the results, or accepting of the country’s new reality; but Andrea provided a space that valued the legitimacy of people’s emotional responses. I think giving myself time to be emotional or empathetic within Davidson’s intellectual, rational environment was important that day.”

Liu Volpe ’17 first described her apprehension the day before. She explains, “When I woke up after Election Night, I forced myself to get out of bed and walk to class. The campus felt empty. Sitting in my class, I felt disconnected from my peers as we talked through the election results. Walking across campus I was at a loss for words when I saw my friends. I cried so much that day, because I felt like I couldn’t do much else.” Volpe continued, “Andrea put words to what I was feeling but could not articulate. Andrea called on us to keep fighting for what we believe in. I left the performance warmed by Andrea’s presence and the sense of safety that I felt as an audience member of the event.” Gibson summarized her experience in North Carolina, saying, “It’s three days after the election and the grief is still thick in my chest. In one moment I’m imagining the apocalypse, people burning flags to heat their homes. In another I’m imagining those red stripes cut down the arms of kids desperate for a pain they can control. At the airport in North Carolina I can’t keep myself from crying in the restroom. At my gate a sweet stranger leans in to wish me love during this awful time, and just as I begin to feel hopeful my phone flashes an image of four women wearing shirts that read ‘Make America White Again’…then another image of a man wearing a shirt that reads ‘Black Guns Matter’… then a moment later my friend texts to tell me she’s getting married next week, before marriage is no longer legal, before god is hate’s puppet.”