An open mic event in support of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was held Friday night, Feb. 12, in downtown Pueblo. The event featured music, poetry, art and other acts performed by members of the community.
The event took place on 224 Victoria Ave. scheduled from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and was open to the entire public with an emphasis on “creatives” who were willing to perform or watch performances.
It was organized and promoted by volunteers from around the city and put together by Colorado State University-Pueblo graduate student Meral Sarper and Sanders campaign field organizer Eric Michaels.
Michaels, 22, became a filed organizer out of college and was enthusiastic about being involved with the campaign.
“I really wanted to make a difference,” Michaels explained, saying that he learned about Sanders over the summer and feels that he should “represent us” as president.
Sarper, 24, also feels strongly about Sanders candidacy, saying that young people “love” Sanders because he makes them feel like “we actually have a chance at life.”
She explained that they chose to have an artistic event like this because political campaigns are usually associated with “people with clipboards,” but their group wanted to reach people in “different, non-traditional ways.”
The building used was close to full, hosting around 50 people by the end of the event and featuring 10 performers in all. The acts included musical performances, poetry readings, stand-up comedy and a political speech.
The musical acts included 10 to 15 minute sets by Sarper, Bea Butler, Papa Ours, Jessiqua Kat Valentine and the musical duo of Manuel and Roz de Lizarriturri.
Jeremy Leger, who performed stand-up comedy for the event, did a routine covering certain aspects of the presidential candidates, the internet and differences between men and women.
Not all acts had a direct correlation to Bernie Sanders or were necessarily political in message; instead many had a theme of togetherness and community. These include covers of popular songs such as The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun,” and Elton John’s “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” as well as original songs and poetry.
Some performances did have a direct connection to Sanders however. Sarper, who performs as Doe Renee, did a rendition of Rachel Patton’s “Fight Song” with reworked lyrics, titled “Bernie Fight Song.”
The event was attended by a slight majority of people over the age of 40, with there being a visible minority of young people at the event.
“It would have been cool to see more young people, but we still had a pretty good showing,” Sarper said about the audience.
Sarper added that they hope to host a future event that will further build “excitement” and “target young voters.”
Garrison Ortiz, 25, a graduate of CSU-Pueblo and candidate for Pueblo County Commissioner, gave a speech at the event and commented on the role of young people in politics
“We need young qualified leadership to help make the decisions of tomorrow,” Ortiz said in regards to how youth should get involved and make a difference.
Ortiz said he was “enthused and refreshed” by the level of energy that was there.
CSU-Pueblo student Brenda Corona concurred, saying, “I loved the positive energy.”
Corona also stated that it was interesting seeing everyone expressing themselves so creatively and passionately. Freelance and PULP Newsmagazine contributor Riki Takaoka, 31, agreed with Corona that it was “great” to see such a unique event in the community.
“Edgie,” 65, who owns the building the open mic took place in and was also in attendance. He requested to be called “Edgie.”
“You just don’t see that much positivity anymore, so it’s great to something like this take place,” he said.
While talking about the event, both Michaels and Sarper commented on how they hope to see support for the campaign and their cause grow leading up to the democratic caucus.
Sarper stated that they hope to have more events in the upcoming weeks including “caucus training” and “texting parties.”
The democratic caucus for Colorado begins on March 1, 2016 with Hillary Clinton and Sanders as the two projected democratic candidates.