Thursday, September 17, 2009

Jimmy Santiago Baca says hello to USM!

Language is defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “audible, articulate, meaningful sound as produced by the action of the vocal organs.” Spoken language is the key to efficient and accurate communication. Some use it to convey insipid concepts or ideas, while others use it as a form of art. I will admit that I have taken it for granted before. For some others, though, language is what they live for and, in a sense, why they are alive.
Jimmy Santiago Baca is a perfect example of the importance of language. At a very young age, his hopes for a giddy, pleasant childhood were squashed. His mother left he and his sister and brother for a rich white businessman and his father comforted himself after her departure with a bottle. Jimmy had no one to turn to, at least no one that could be of any help. By the time he became a pre-teen, he had already been in and out of jail on numerous accounts of theft. His crimes grew more serious as he aged and by twenty he was in a prison cell next door to murderers and rapists. Even though his crime was not this serious, as it was possession of illegal drugs, the system deemed him to deserve this punishment. He obviously was not on a good path. He had nothing to turn to except for the fleeting image of the woman he loved leaving him for a man with a degree. With this image, he wrote his first poem. Its power drove this woman to fly from states away to see him. After observing what power his writing contained, he took this talent and ran with it. Today, years and years later, Jimmy is a nationally recognized poet and author. He is also the proud father of two children. Language saved him from himself and if that isn’t power, I don’t know what is.
On Tuesday, September 15, the University of Southern Mississippi was graced with Mr. Baca’s presence. He spoke at the Honors College forum. Luckily, as an Honors Ambassador, I was required to attend. He was, without a doubt, the best speaker I have heard in all of my time at USM. He brought new insight to campus with him, and he has definitely left a mark on me since his departure. Coming from an extremely poor family in New Mexico, he and I definitely share two completely separate backgrounds and life stories. He opened my eyes to a whole new world, and I wish that all of the students at USM would have been privileged enough to hear him speak.

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