Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

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February 24, 2024

Poet alumnus performs at local fundraiser

Augustana alumni and Chicago resident, Uxmar Torres, 24, recites his written poems at the Roaring Rhetoric Fundraiser sponsored by the 2F Project for Community Education at Rozz-Tox on October 5, 2019. Torres uses his experiences of growing up in Chicago to create honest and conflict charged poetry.

On Saturday, Oct. 5, Rock Island cafe, bar, and performance venue Rozz-Tox hosted new local non-profit 2F’s first fundraiser at its monthly “Roaring Rhetoric” showcase.

The event began with an introduction by 2F founder and Rock Island native, Aubrey Barnes. He briefly described the 2F project and its mission and talked about why he believes the arts are necessary for helping children find their voice and discover their identity.

“When people typically think of poets, they think of Frost, or T.S. Eliot,” Barnes said “We want to show kids that art and poetry comes from all different cultures.”

With 2F, Barnes hopes to create “a value of education and appreciation for art and cultures they [kids] may not know about.” He mentioned the optional donation at the door of the venue, and that “all money raised will go back directly to the community.”

Barnes has worked with Rozz-Tox for four years, hosting a variety of events. He started this non-profit after realizing — like thousands of other schools around the country — that the arts are being neglected in Quad Cities schools.

“I want to give kids an opportunity that I didn’t have as a kid,” Barnes said. His goal is to help local underprivileged youth find creative outlets and build an appreciation of the arts in low cost free workshops.

Every class has eight  to 10 students and aims to let kids express themselves through a variety of art mediums.

“For the last three to four years I’ve done it, I just handle it as offering different workshops, but I’m starting an after school program here pretty soon in Davenport,” Barnes said. “Kids can come after school and learn about different writing processes from culture rap aesthetics, cultures with aesthetics they have a great interest in.”

The program will focus on teaching kids different types of writing styles and how to find their own style within that. The program will also focus on the performance aspect of the arts such as how to grab people with your words.

Barnes is planning for this program to start the beginning of the next school year. Right now, there are several workshops being offered throughout the school year.

Five people performed their original work at Saturday’s fundraiser. Among them was Augustana alumnus, Uxmar Torres. Torres performed three original poems, two of which he wrote during his time at Augustana.

His pieces touched on topics of self-image, the contrast of growing up in Chicago to going to school at a small liberal arts college and theology.

Torres was invited to perform by Barnes, whom he met during his time at Augustana through the Quad Cities writing community. Torres was excited to have the opportunity to return to Rozz-Tox, where he had first performed his poetry during his freshman year.

He said being back was “strange” but that it was “great to see all the positive change in the Augie community.”

Torres graduated with the class of 2018 with a degree in creative writing, and now works at an art gallery in Chicago.

The other four performers consisted of a local poet, a rapper/songwriter, a minister and an elementary school teacher’s assistant. The topics of their performances were similar to 2F Projects mission, including theology, the struggles of growing up in underprivileged communities and mental health.

Rozz-Tox is a hangout spot for Augustana students.

It is a local Rock Island business close to campus that serves as a cafe and performance venue that opened in April of 2011. Several students and alumni speak about it with nostalgia, a favorite stop, they say, when visiting Rock Island.

Class of 2019 alumni Connor Maccabee said it’s “a really chill place in my experience. It’s like a hipster hang, to be honest.”

It hosts “Roaring Rhetoric” the first Saturday of every month and is the perfect introduction to this artist-run cafe. Rozz-Tox also hosts the Sacred Knight Sound System party every Thursday from 9p.m. to 1a.m

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Poet alumnus performs at local fundraiser