As a political science and sociology major with aspirations of becoming a lawyer, Benjamin Santos’, ‘22, voice and the words have proven to be among the most important things in his life. He is now using his words in the form of poetry and music to call attention to injustices in the world.
“Words dominate everything I do,” Santos said.
Santos said he uses art as a medium to highlight the inequality and disparities present in society, such as racism, sexism and capitalism.
Santos has performed at various events on campus, one of his favorites being Battle of the Bands in Lamberton Hall, he said. The top two performers from Battle of the Bands, voted on by audience choice, got to perform at Founder’s Day in 2019.
Santos was one of the winners.
During his Founder’s Day performance, Santos shared a poem he completed for his English class. Santos said although being vulnerable with his work in front of a large audience was nerve-wracking, it has now become one of his favorite memories.
“I think poetry might be that thing that brings me from simply being a lawyer to being someone who impacts culture and has a more substantial impact on society,” Santos said.
Santos said he first became interested in poetry as a child growing up in the Bronx, listening to hip-hop.
“(Hip-hop is) the embodiment of getting yourself out of whatever predicament you are in by using your words to express your feelings,” Santos said. “My words were the thing that got me out of my high school and into my college.
Santos’ art has not only acted as a meaningful outlet of expression for him, but has impacted those around him.
Ruben Rosas, ‘20, said he has enjoyed watching Santos grow as a person and an artist.
“Since the first day I met him, I thought he would be a force to be reckoned with,” Rosas said.
In addition to offering moral support to Santos, Rosas said he has helped Santos produce his work through engineering audio tracks, producing beats and critiquing his poetry.
Kashi Johnson, a professor in the department of theatre, has also had an impact on Santos’ art career. Johnson said she looks for a spark inside each of her students, and that wasn’t hard to find in Santos.
“Ben (Santos) has a passion for delivering a message with intensity and truth that is undeniable,” Johnson said.
Santos said his work has also served as a source of comfort for himself, especially during the pandemic. He said poetry and music allowed him to process what was going on in his environment and help him cope with the difficulties COVID-19 presented.
Santos said he has done a lot of self reflection in the past year, especially about the role poetry plays in his life. He intends to continue pursuing the craft in any way possible.
His activism has manifested in ways other than art, such as being a member of Student Senate, Santos said. He said he is passionate about seeing change on Lehigh’s campus and is willing to do whatever it takes to further it.
After graduating in the spring, Santos said he plans on taking a gap year before attending law school. During that time, he said he will work and pursue endeavors in music in New York City.
“I have great pride in seeing his poetry manifest and he hasn’t even graduated yet,” Johnson said.