Amendment One

Ashley Jefferson

Imagine walking down the hall in your dorm and hearing two guys freestyle battling right in the bathroom. For some, your first thought would be to simply shrug it off as one of the unexpected random occurrences that come with living on a college campus.

Not many people would be so intrigued as to actually go into the bathroom and learn more about it. Although it may not seem like the most likely option, then-freshman Tyrelle Kelly and Ryan Conway chose to do just that. Little did they know that they’d befriend the mystery bathroom battler Dave Shaheen, and a year later would be jumpstarting an on-campus club for artistic expression.

All three were always interested in the arts in some way, shape or form, though it might not be obvious at first glance. Conway, a sophomore marketing major from Coatesville, Pa., has been singing and performing since the age of three.

“My parents threw me onstage for the first time, and it really was a traumatic experience,” he says.

He eventually overcame that traumatic experience, realized how much he really enjoyed it and, as they say, the rest was history.

With Kelly, a sophomore international business major from the Bronx, New York, his interest in music seemed to happen instantly.

“I’m always listening to music,” he says. “It’s almost like a 24-hour thing for me.”

Kelly has been writing music with the help of his brother since the age of 16. In his senior year something piqued his interest in poetry, and upon coming to Villanova, he began to write more.

For the unmasked bathroom freestyle battler Shaheen, a sophomore, management major and varsity tennis player from South Florida, his interest in the arts stems more from inspiration than anything else.

“I’m inspired from the mysteries of the unknown and the virtues of the unseen,” Shaheen says.

He has been writing poetry for a while and acknowledges that it is his ultimate form of release.

These three guys from varying backgrounds find common ground in their love and passion for artistic expression. They have been interested since freshman year in starting something on campus that could act as a channel for students to express themselves. It wasn’t an easy task trying to brainstorm ideas, but, eventually, they came up with the idea of Amendment One. It was started as a way to combine all of their talents but also to reach out to others. The ultimate mission is to allow an open forum atmosphere for people to express themselves, no matter what form they choose.

Jumpstarting their own club last semester was somewhat of a daunting task for Conway, Kelly and Shaheen. In the beginning of the school year, they held a general informational meeting to garner some attention and also to tell those who were interested exactly what Amendment One is all about.

It was a cold, rainy night, and, despite the fair amount of attendees, the meeting did not go as planned. A bold attendee even voiced his disproval of the meeting and club. The three founders explained that they were passionate about what they were doing, but the onlooker decided to put them on the spot and told them to prove it. Kelly rapped a couple of verses, Conway sang a few lines and Shaheen recited some of his poems. Everyone was impressed by their talent and their chemistry.

Despite the rocky start, it was enough to motivate Conway, Kelly and Shaheen to keep going and make their vision a reality. It wasn’t easy getting others to catch on to their vision, but after their first meeting the buzz began to grow.

They were able to garner a following, put together an executive board and organize as a legitimate organization on campus. Now, they hold general meetings periodically, not just to handle the logistics of running an on-campus organization but also to serve as a forum for their members to share some of the pieces that have been created for upcoming events.

Their first official event, “Cupid’s Arrow,” was held last Thursday in the Good Counsel basement. Playing off of the Valentine’s Day theme, the event was aimed at highlighting all sides of love, the good, the bad and the ugly. People read personal, heartfelt poems, performed live songs and played instruments, all in the name of love and artistic expression.

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, love is in the air for those in Amendment One. Besides their first event, “Cupid’s Arrow,” they are currently hosting their first annual “Roses Are Read” campaign. Instead of getting candy, cards, teddy bears or a typical novelty, the members of Amendment One are expressing themselves and spreading the love with what they know best: the arts. This means you can take a step away from the traditions, spice things up, and send a poem, song, rap or anything else performance based to your special someone.

Aside from everything that they are doing and all of the buzz they are getting on campus, along with the success of their first event, Conway, Kelly and Shaheen, have great expectations for Amendment I and its future. With the help of faculty advisers Charisma Presley from the Center for Multicultural Affairs, and Rev. David Cregan, O.S.A., one of the many goals that they have for the future is to host development workshops. This is something that hits close to home with all three of them because, despite being able to show their talents fearlessly and confidently now, that wasn’t always the case early on. They want to have self-building workshops as an outlet of encouragement for people who have stage fright or have never shared any of their works on stage with others.

Some of their long-term goals are to have an end-of-the-school year showcase to demonstrate all of their talents in one forum that’s bigger than the one they usually have for their events. And they don’t just want it to be about themselves and the rest of the students at Villanova, they are also interested in bringing in performers, writers, poets and other acts from off-campus.

They also hope to expand their group out, making it as big as possible. Although it’s their goal to be an outlet of expression for others, they would love for others to do the same.

“We want to be like an umbrella organization on campus for all others geared toward artistic expression,” Conway says. “We want to have a bunch of other groups all under Amendment I.”

They may have some big goals for their club with less than a year under their belt, but they are never ones to think small. Conway, Kelly and Shaheen are confident that their success with Amendment I will continue.