Library links community with poetry


Children performing a “graveyard dance” at the Oak Park Public Library

Cotton candy skies settled over the silver mics on the stage. In the corner, a DJ spun rap songs and bopped his heels. Anxious bodies seemed to itch in their chairs as they waited to perform.  The Oak Park Public Library hosted a More Than a Mic: Open Mic Night on Oct. 19 for a diverse crowd that included people of color and a variety of ages. The library hosts the monthly event so that people of all talents within the community can share their art in a safe place.  The host for the event was Simon Gutierrez, a 16-year-old junior who attends Oak Park and River Forest High School and participates in the Spoken Word Club. The open mic is a “great opportunity for kids to immerse themselves in the art that they want to,” he said.  Gutierrez stressed the idea that “organic artistry is such an amazing thing, and it’s places like these that help promote that.”

At the event, a dance troupe of about 15 kids, most under the age of 12, dressed up in red-stained shirts and masks to perform a graveyard dance. The dance drew cheers and laughs from enthusiastic parents and supporters in the audience. A 7- year- old dancer, who gave her name as Kaylyn, said she loved to dance, and this open mic gave her the opportunity to do it on stage, which made her feel happy. Some adults performed as well. Marché Pernell, who is in charge of middle and high school programming at the library, explained that, “It’s important for people to have a space to express themselves creatively…this bridges gaps between all ages and generations and allows people to come and support each other.”


The library hosted an open mic last June, but was not able to host the event at full capacity due to COVID restrictions. Those restrictions have now been lifted and events are running at full capacity. Open mic events are scheduled monthly. The next event takes place Dec. 15 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the library, 834 Lake St. in Oak Park.