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Man interrupts virtual Black History Month poetry competition with racist slurs, disturbing images

Published: Feb. 18, 2021 at 8:58 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - The Black History Month Spoken Word Competition was open to everyone. Held by Jackson College it was a virtual meeting, for the sake of pandemic safety, but the Zoom link was publicly posted and no one was excluded.

There’s usually not high security on such Zoom meetings, because idea that someone might abuse that invitation wouldn’t cross most peoples’ mind.

The focus for the Spoken Word Competition was supposed to be on the Civil Rights Movement to the Social Justice Movement. Each participant was supposed to have three minutes to speak. That’s not long to share one’s thoughts on a topic so fundamental to the American story, particularly after a year that not only saw the Black community dealing with harsher COVID-19 numbers than everyone else, but also case after case of Black Americans being killed by police.

High-school-aged children and college students were invited to submit entries, and to listen. They made up most of the audience as Jay Willis, one of the entrants, was delivering his speech. But Willis was interrupted.

A man- identity currently unknown- began shouting on the Zoom call.

“I hate you n--gers!” he shouted to the children, men and women who had gathered to hear spoken word poetry.

His screen then displayed an image of a man being killed by gunshot. Attendees would later discover that the images were not real, but the children, men and women who were in attendance believed that they had seen someone die. Then on his screen came a picture of a corpse, with a racial song playing over the audio.

Not yet cut off, he switched his screen to an image of former First Lady of The United States Michelle Obama next to a chimpanzee.

A source who was watching the competition told News 10 that the organizers of the Spoken Word Competition were struggling to shut off the Zoom call. They had not been prepared for someone to attack a poetry competition in that way.

The assailant then switched his screen again, this time showing hardcore pornography that depicted a Black woman being subservient to a White man.

Finally, the organizers were able to get the Zoom call shut down. After taking a short time to regroup, the event organizers had a decision to make. Continue, and risk further harassment, or allow the hate to shut down the competition?

The organizers sent out a new link and finished the competition.

They overcame.

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