March 23, 2019 | 36° F

Critically acclaimed musician Jamila Woods performs acoustic set on campus

Photo by Elizabeth Reynes |

Poet, musician and activist Jamila Woods performed a set at the Douglass Student Center on Wednesday. Afterward, she held a discussion with Rutgers students, focusing on her artistic process and non-profit efforts.

Artist Jamila Woods, featured in the song “Blessings” by Chance the Rapper, performed an acoustic set at the Douglass Student Center this past Wednesday.

The poet, activist and musician engaged students in conversation as she discussed her artistic process, inspiration and vision, as well as her work as the associate artistic director of the non-profit youth organization Young Chicago Authors, according to the event's Facebook page

Woods graduated from Brown University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Africana studies and theatre and performance studies. Her music is strongly influenced by Lucille Clifton and Gwendolyn Brooks as much of her writing explores blackness, womanhood and the city of Chicago, according to her site.

Her debut project HEAVN received critical acclaim from Pitchfork, NPR and Rolling Stone Magazine. She is also the featured vocalist on the Chance the Rapper's singles "Blessings" and "Sunday Candy," according to the Facebook page.

The event included a Q&A session followed by a 30-minute acoustic set featuring original songs performed by Woods, with assistance from her band members on guitar. After, attendants were invited to meet and take pictures with her.

Jorge Reina Schement, vice president of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, said the inspiration for the event came in response to former President Barack Obama’s comment that “America converges here” at the University commencement ceremony last year.

His statement prompted Chancellor Richard L. Edwards to organize a series of events highlighting the diversity of the Rutgers community throughout the semester, Schement said. This is one of many events held showcasing multiculturalism here, inviting prominent individuals in each community to come visit.

Whether the event turnout is small or large is irrelevant, he said. What matters is that we keep having new discussions and continue to challenge the status quo as a revolutionary university.

“Our job as a university is to bring ideas to the table so that you and I can hear the ones that stimulate, the more valuable ideas not the ones that tear things and people down, but ideas that inspire are valuable beyond words,” Schement said.

Woods was perfect for students as she strays from Hollywood fabricated artists and relates much closer to students, he said. 

"She’s a smart, thoughtful and impressive woman that serves as a great example for what these events hope to encapsulate," Schement said. 

Bria Wood, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said she heard about the event through friends from Verbal Mayhem, a Rutgers-based series of open mics serving as poetry collective, and was excited to have seen Woods.

“She was amazing, she lifted my whole soul,” Wood said.

While the event was a great experience, student turnout was less than expected, Woods said. On account of little promotion through social media and coordination with other organizations, students were unaware that it was happening.

“I didn’t hear much about it until one of my friends told me to check it out and so I did. Better marketing or advertising of event is necessary because this room should have been packed with people," she said.

Being part of an interactive crowd with thoughtful questions and listening to other artists was very special, Woods said. Being able to talk to them about their projects and offer advice is always great.

Having individuals that attend the same university come together at these events without knowing one another adds to the sense of community, Woods said. It is always good to see people strike friendships over collaborative efforts or just shared interests.

“Explore all corners of the campus and the community that’s here at Rutgers," she said. "You never know, your next collaborator or thought partner could be somewhere on this campus and you might not even know it. Keep an open mind and build with people."

Christian Zapata

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