An Evening of Poetry by Women of Colour

Last night I witnessed artistic talent in the purest of forms as young poets took to the stage, mixing their words with their passion to create an evening of thought provoking impact. I had never been to a poetry recital before, so when I saw that the University’s Feminist society was holding an event in celebration of HERstory week I knew I had to attend. I did not know what to expect, however the energy and enthusiasm I felt in the Queens Building reassured me that all I had to do was sit back and enjoy. The lecture theatre was full of young students bubbling with excitement and eager to share and learn about black HerStory week. There were a few boys who showed up which was delightful to see, although I’m not sure 3 or 4 male-attendees really counts as ground breaking.

Aida Mugabo was the poet to get things started. She recited three of her poems with passion and conviction that got me instantly hooked. My favourite was Darling which was a piece inspired by her personal experience addressing young boys who had spat abuse at her from their car. Her condescending tone, as she ironically addressed them as ‘Darling’, made clear her intention of belittling such behaviour and shining light on the absurdity of racism and sexism.

The second young woman to stand up and bare her thoughts was Christy Ku. Her calm and composed air was a joy to watch as she recited three of her poems in an almost trance-like state. She had real presence and mastered the English language through the form and content of her poetry. Ku spoke of racism, mental health, and the reassuring concept that time eventually passes and nothing is permanent. She expounded on her own experience as an Asian girl and claimed, after witnessing racism on her Facebook page, that her “Asian generation is not comedy material”, asking bystanders to speak up if ever they witnessed such despicable behaviour.

Malusa Kilonda was next and recited four poems encapsulating her own experience, from soul mates and love to what being a black woman means to her. She also recited the poem It Couldn’t Be Done by Edgar Albert Guest, an influential poem for her. Her delivery was self-assured and energetic and she appeared to be a go-getting optimistic young woman whose spark and smile will see her achieve whatever she sets her mind to.

Saba Khan was the fourth poet to perform and she really blew me away with her two poems One Day and Beauty Race. She brought rhythm and power to her words as they were beautifully crafted and musical; a joy to listen to. The content packed a punch as well as she tackled identity and the role of the media in shaping people’s perceptions of minority groups. Beauty Race was a goose-bump-inducing tirade on beauty and where to find your own self-worth. She ended the poem with the line “Beauty is in the mind of the Owner” subverting the popular phrase and making a powerful statement that sent the audience into a frenzy of clapping.  

Fifth was Amelia Wellington, an inspiringly intelligent student. Her four poems had a lot of impact on the audience. Indeed, her words at times sent shivers round the room or produced giggles from the listeners. The array of emotions she spoke of and produced in the audience was masterful as she recited her work by memory and admitted that this was, in fact, the first time she had ever performed. Her poems were rhythmical and beautifully designed and she delivered each word with great emphasis and musicality. Wellington spoke of insecurities as well as the consequences of gun crime, love and loneliness and finally her personal anger at being constrained by the minimum wage and her peer’s idealism. The audience received each of her poems with claps and woops recognising her talent.

Siana Bangura Photo Credit: Christy Ku
Siana Bangura
Photo Credit: Christy Ku

The final poet was spoken word artist Siana Bangura an awe inspiring force of nature; a Cambridge graduate, she is an artist as well as an Entrepreneur. She is currently working on various projects like “No Fly on the Wall”, as well as demanding justice for Sheky Bayoh a Sierra Leonean man who died in police custody in Scotland. She guided the audience through the various facets of her experiences as a black woman and trust me, when she starts to speak, you start to listen. Bangura spoke of pride, hate, humiliation and anger amongst other concepts. Her passion for the cause and her ferocious intellect are enviable. A master of words, she spoke of her personal encounters with racism and her honest accounts made me, at times, squirm in my seat, especially her piece named Gentrification which touched upon the idea of cultural appropriation and privilege. The poem that stood out for me was Scorched Earth, a powerful statement addressing women of colour who battle with their skin constantly as if wanting to burn their own flesh. As the audience watched the enigmatic artist speak so passionately and with great insight, it was difficult to imagine that anyone would not want to be on her side and support her cause.

To conclude, it was a fantastic evening and I hope FemSoc continues to do these poetry recitals on various topics as they are a fantastic way to learn and start a conversation, as well as a great opportunity to showcase inspiring young talent. What the audience witnessed was a confident display of powerfully intelligent women distilling their emotions into sometimes beautiful and sometimes ugly images of their experiences as a minority. The energy was infectious and I left the well-organised event with a smile on my face.

Sadie Lister

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