In April of 2019, Mo Crist, BC ’19, and the Barnumbia slam poetry team will head to the College Union Poetry Slam Invitational (CUPSI) in Houston to compete with slam teams from across the nation.
Crist, who joined as a freshman, is now a coach for the slam team. They will help poets on the team prepare for CUPSI 2019 by editing work, facilitating the writing of collaborative slam poems and more generally being a leader.
Crist is majoring in English and CreativeWriting at Barnard, but initially came to Barnard planning to be pre-med.
It was joining the Barnumbia slam poetry team that directly influenced Crist’s decision to change paths. With the help of their slam coach, Crist discovered a passion for creative writing as a freshman.
“[I] had an amazing coach named Paul Tran who really encouraged my writing and showed me that I could be a writer and study English and make something really great out of that,” Crist says. “So that’s why I switched to English, and I haven’t looked back.”
Outside of the slam team, Crist is one of the co-presidents of the Barnard Writing Collective and is also the president of GendeRevolution, which is the transgender support and advocacy group of Columbia and Barnard. In October, GendeRevolution hosted GenderFuck, an annual queer, body-positive underwear dance party. Following the event, Crist wrote an op-ed in the Columbia Daily Spectator titled ‘GenderFuck and the defense of trans joy’; their article discussed the purpose of the event as a safe space for queer and trans students, as well as the policing of the event by university administration.
“The op-ed was kind of a way of trying to explain the merit of the event and why it’s important and necessary but also why it’s incredibly, incredibly difficult to put on,” Crist says.
In particular, Crist was motivated by feeling that student event planners aren’t granted enough recognition by the university and other students for the countless hours and dedication put towards organizing events like GenderFuck.
“Especially for queer and trans communities on campus, there are so many of us that put in so much time and effort and work for this community that we’re a part of that we feel really passionate about, and it’s hard to continue doing that without feeling like you’re supported or given credit,” Crist says.
Having helped plan the event for all four years they’ve been on campus, Crist has noticed a difference in how Barnard and Columbia’s administrations interact with the queer and trans student communities. Last year, GenderFuck was hosted at Barnard, and Crist specifically recalls feeling that the administration lacked trust in GenderFuck’s ability to put on the event safely or well.
“It’s definitely hard to be queer and trans at Barnard because it’s a women’s college and it’s kind of hard to divorce that history from the current student body, which is very diverse in terms of gender identity and presentation,” Crist says. “I really saw the differences last year in planning GenderFuck and realizing that Barnard didn’t want this event to happen because it put a bad face on the school.”