Da Session with Professor Theo Williams
Ever since Communication Professor Theo Williams’ (’99) first poetry slam in ’99, Williams has used words as a net, becoming a fisher of men focused on discipling students, congregations and strangers alike. I had the privilege of seeing this firsthand while interviewing him.
KB: Tell me about yourself. What are your passions?
TW: “I would definitely say my passion is people. Seeing that each person has the opportunity to maximize their potential, to be all that they can be, to receive all that God has for us; that’s what I’m most passionate about.”
KB: I hear one of the ways you connect with people is through spoken word poetry. What is it and how did you become involved?
TW: “Spoken word poetry is exactly what it sounds like. It is poetry that was specifically created to be spoken. I started writing poetry in about 1997 here at Bethel as an outlet or way to express myself. I did my first poetry slam in April of ’99 at IUSB. I was still, what we would call, ‘on paper’ which means I had my stuff typed out and I was reading off the paper.
But then I saw several poets who were head and shoulders above me. I was like, if this is something I’m going to do to glorify God, I have to be excellent. I couldn’t just be content with being ‘the man’ at Bethel if this was something I wanted to use to glorify God. To really get different messages out there, I knew I had to hone my skills. And so that’s when I began to really study the art form and really put in the work. I’ve been doing it ever since.”
KB: I hear you started a group called Da Session on campus. What is it and how did it get started?
TW: “One day I was in Shiloh talking to Jordan Norris and Mike King. Mike was just playing the keys, and Jordan started playing on his box drum and I was like: ‘I like that beat, run that back.’ We were talking about maybe doing some prayer, so I was like, OK, we’re gonna pray, but we’re gonna pray this way. And I started doing this freestyle rap but it was a prayer.
They told some of the people they were jamming with to come. So that’s when Lizzie Wierenga jumped on the cello, and then Krystal Kotesky came with the guitar, and different people sat in with their instruments. So we started this thing called Da Session; it’s basically a jam session, like freestyle worship.”
KB: How else have you used spoken word or freestyle rap to connect with your students?
TW: “We did an impromptu [rap] in the hallway outside my class, AC 219. Jordan started banging on the table, and I did a freestyle rap. It was right next door to the interpreting class, so the interpreters came out and started interpreting. People [were] stopping in the hallway, and just that five-minute thing that got people to stop and come out of their classes made the light bulb go off that, hey, this is a hook. This is a net to catch fish.
So this is just one of the hooks that God has blessed me with, to be able to use words, whether it’s spoken word, whether it’s freestyle rap, whether its speaking, just using the word to talk about the Word.”