Spoken Word Artists United, more popularly known as “SWAU,” is a performance based organization at Delaware State University. While the organization was originally established some time before 2014, during the 2022-2023 school year it was re-established under a new administration with new by-laws. SWAU is a writing and performance based organization, as they hold many writing workshops and open mic nights open to all students. In the organization, there is a focus on bringing out the inner artist in each person, as well as getting them comfortable with their writing and performing skills. While the organization does have an emphasis on spoken art, it also includes written artwork as art can be seen in all forms.
Tamara Bobb-Duberry, sophomore and Spoken Words Artists United Treasurer, states that “S.W.A.U is about providing a safe space and outlet for voices and arts throughout campus.”
The organization is designed and established in a way to promote the cultural teachings of arts and promote cultural unity. This sentiment is even stated in their by laws, as two of its purposes are to promote cultural unity and arts on campus and allow members of the student body to take part in activities promoting the growth of arts.
“Campus life and student leadership can often be a struggle to actively partake in both. However, I managed to use my campus life to positively impact SWAU. Through inviting peers to our sessions and actively representing them while on campus. With Spoken Word Artist United, I hope to accomplish consistently giving students safe spaces to voice their inner thoughts without feeling someone will judge and or overlook them,” says Kaseam Shand, sophomore and Mister Spoken Word Artists United.
The SWAU Board is composed of seven different officer positions: President, Vice President, Corresponding Secretary, Recording Secretary, Treasurer, as well as a Mister. SWAU and Miss SWAU. Currently, Bobb-Dubery serves as Treasurer, sophomore Ron-Nesha Graham serves as Corresponding Secretary, sophomore Olivia Matthews serves as Recording Secretary, Shand serves as Mister SWAU, Miss Sophomore Imani Washington serves as Vice President, and junior Raven Quander serves as President. The on campus advisor for Spoken Word Artists United is Ms. LaTasha Perkins, who is an accomplished and published poet in her own right.
While positions such as President, Vice President, Corresponding Secretary, Recording Secretary, and Treasurer are common to many different organizations on and off campus the positions of Mister and Miss Spoken Word Artists United appear to be a title only consistent at Delaware State University. The individuals in the position of Mister and Miss SWAU serve as the promotional spokespeople for the organization, which means that they will promote relations between the organization and the rest of the community. While the two board members are required to attend the regularly scheduled board meetings just like the rest of the administrative board, Mister and Miss SWAU also coordinate community service operations and as serve as the primary forms of leadership for the communities. Essentially, the Mister and Miss become the face of the organization and a representation of the organization’s common members.
According to board member Olivia Matthews, it has not been challenging being in such a position as “everyone on the board works together really well to get things done. Everyone knows their responsibilities and carries their position very well.”
Membership into Spoken Word Artists United is granted after payment of dues within the organization and confirmation from the Treasurer. Membership dues are put into the budget for the organization’s material expenses for the year, such as food, pencils, and paper. Nonvoting membership is reserved for those members who are not able to be apart of the organization officially due to academics but have already paid their membership dues. A person does not pay dues for the organization but still attends events is designated as a volunteer until the membership requirements are fulfilled.
Under the new administration, the organization was able to re-establish themselves as a performance oriented organization after gaining notoriety through their writing workshops, including “Write and Release,” “Nighttime Thoughts,” and “Beyond the Words,” partnered with Miss Freshman, Joyce Kasiama.
While Spoken Word Artists United has created a very popular name for themselves on campus, it was not always easy for them being a newly re-established organization.
Most recently, on campus advisor LaTasha Perkins and President Raven Quander attended a leadership meeting with President Tony Allen and his secretary to discuss how the administrative leaders of the university could be a better asset for campus organizations and their executive members. Through this open discussion, they hope to open up Spoken Word Artists United to more parts of the Delaware State University community and gain more outreach to different students.