For many, an open mic night is a terrifying situation they hope to avoid at all costs.

For Corey Hodge, coordinator of the Mahogany Soul Cafe, it is an opportunity to bring a welcoming community of talented people to the university.

"Mahogany Soul is a great event because it's open for everybody," Hodge, junior in interdisciplinary programming with a focus in Africana studies, said. "You had blacks, whites, you had males and females, all classes of individuals and people who were older. We definitely had a great outcome and different mentality."

Mahogany Soul is held once a month on Tuesday nights throughout the semester. It is sponsored by the Office of Minority Student Affairs, and began the series in 2002 to give students a chance to display their talents locally to a group of students and friends.

Performers usually sing, rap, read original poetry or perform an instrumental piece.

John Ransom, senior in economics, uses the performances to gain exposure for his rapping talents.

"I have a mixtape coming out soon," Ransom said. "And I was spreading the word."

Mahogany Soul provides an environment for people to express and grow personally as well. For some, the night gives each a chance to overcome their jitters and nerves.

Maya Johnson, freshman in food science and technology with a concentration in pre-dental, said she loves to sing and hopes that with repeated performances she can eventually get over her nerves.

"I wasn't as nervous as I thought I would be and to have people welcome you to the stage makes you feel even more welcome," Johnson said.

Cullen Johnson, freshman in computer engineering, performed a saxophone solo piece. He said he was persuaded by his friends to perform this year and will probably return to perform again.

Many newcomers feel jitters initially, but say that being on stage helps to alleviate their worries. Johnson notes that he was nervous before, but all of that evaporated when he took the stage.

"Once I started playing, I wasn't (nervous)," he said.

The entire event has a welcoming environment, with the crowd supporting each performance. When the artist is a first-time performer, or a "virgin to the mic," the encouraging phrase "go on with your bad self" is thrown out from the crowd in order to lessen his or her nerves.

The audience engages with the performers as well, with some chiming in song lyrics or giving words of encouragement when a performer seems a bit flustered.

For regular performers like Hodge, part of the enjoyment in writing and performing comes from being able to use his spoken word poetry to bring attention to things that happen in America and the Knoxville community. Hodge wants to continue to perform for the rest of his life.

"Performing is a way for me to express myself, so (I want to perform) every day ... every time," Hodge said.

All are welcome to either watch or showcase a talent. The next Mahogany Soul Cafe will be held on Oct. 29 in the Black Cultural Center. This will be the last Mahogany Soul event of the current semester.