Overcoming Adversity with Poetry

Image courtesy of Akili Amina

The power of the spoken word has the potential to change the flow of everything. You possess this voice, this power. You are more than capable of inspiring, motivating, and changing the world around you. It comes from within; use the facts, your drive, your love, to fuel your words to stimulate you and those around you. It can happen anywhere.

You have a choice to say something significant, worthwhile, and remarkable. You have a choice to wake up and say that today will be a great day; those words will set forth a chain of favourable energy, it's your job to follow through with action. As directors of our own film, every day--whether conscious or subconsciously--we create our own reality. Words can be like a double edged sword piercing through the heart of an individual or they can be a way that we heal ourselves and those around us.

Personally, words--in the form of poetry--were a way for me to express my thoughts, struggles and triumphs during my years of living on the streets. I have a great respect and admiration for poets and spoken word artists.

It was with great delight to stumble upon the words of poet and writer Akili Amina. The following is an interview that first appeared in Issue One of KULCHA Magazine, that I published last month.

Simba: What is your latest poem? 

Akili: My latest poem is called I Rise. It is a poem about the atrocities we as humans face in society and it was a way of expressing my angst and anger that day. I write usually upon whatever emotion or experience that is in the forefront of my consciousness. If I wrote today it would be about the pain and loss that I have suffered recently and how I aspire to look over my shoulder in triumph after reaching the peak of my mountain of adversities.

With my right fist up, I rise
In spite of the undercover genocide done in broad daylight
With all internal eyes closed and sealed by mass mind control
Or with blank stares watching the tormented souls descending earth in mid-air
With my right fist up, I rise
Remembering the afros and dashikis
They are the symbols of our solidarity
We are losing all ciphers that we were, that we are, that we be!
The Diasporas children bore with gritted teeth
The chains, the hangings, the hoses, and they live in the resource-less communities
And they are spilling into the overcrowded prisons of our country
And this is one of our newest industries
Build More!
Build More!
Privatized penitentiaries are scanning human barcodes
No jobs plus no food minus education equals greater risk to be taken
With my right fist up, I rise
We are the 99%, but we are also the 10!
And steadily disappearing, but a thanks goes to the motherland children
And none goes to those who put a gun to the heads of their kin and their brethren
With my right fist up, I rise
Drug war zones financed by dirty execs that only represent personal greed and power
And this is everywhere in all the nations and in all the poor populations around the globe
They are turning their heads to all the crime in the cities so they can’t see
While they are sitting high in the penthouse living counting all their money
With my right fist up, I rise
In honor of all children who suffered sexual abuse and to all who are incest victims
The numbers are climbing, the numbers are climbing, and the numbers are climbing
And the pain stalks them for the rest of their lives
It will always be right there to remind them that they are not worthy
Or constantly asking themselves why did this happen to me?
But regardless of their misguided philosophies
They should know that they survived
And you survived
And I survived
And I rise to tell my story
And I rise to remind us of our history
And I rise to share my view
And I rise to share our glory
With my right- fist- up!

S: How long have you been writing? 

A: I began writing my poems around May or June of 2008. It was because all of my children left as they were grown and began their own lives. I was left with an empty nest and my thoughts. I began to put them on paper and eventually poem after poem started to flow through me, so I wanted to share them. I started my blog Poetic Dream around that time.

S: Besides poetry do you also write books? If so, what was your latest book?

A: I have written two self published books, both on poetry. One I wrote with a very good, poetic friend from California named Elizabeth Chapin-Pinotti. You should check out her blog, she is very gifted. Our book was asking for peace in the civil unrest regions of Africa with a interview done by me asking eye opening questions to a political student aspiring African politician.

S: How has your life experience led into your writing?

A: I think writing found me. I noticed some years back that I talked in metaphors whenever I hold conversations bits and pieces of my statements would go great in a poem. I began to want to hold them as if they were a gift from the Universe to me, so I began to write. I have to say thought because of life and the issues we all face I went back and forth.

S: What authors do you admire and why?

A: I love Patricia Smith because of her rawness. I love Charles Bukowski because of his ability to take a simple moment in life and use the medium of poetry and make it art. I love Langston Hughes because he was my first. I was only in the fifth grade when I carried his poetry book next to my bosom for weeks until the librarian explained I couldn't check it out anymore. "My soul has grown deep like the rivers."

S: What other arts do you follow and enjoy?

A: I love, love, love museums! When I lived very close to the DC Metro area, I would spend hours looking at the art in the museums. Some even let you take photos although I am very amateurish. It was the highlight of my life just to walk around museums and look at photography, surrealist sculptures and paintings (my fave), and for some odd reason I like the sounds of the shoes and the low mumble of people talking. Go figure. (smiles)

S: What is the message that you hope to convey in your work?

A: I want to convey love, life, humanity, hope, courage, and overall respect for the art of poetry. I want to learn the craft one day that I have a command of it. I know that I am a baby in the nursery of poetic feats, but I am ready and very very willing to learn. I will continue to take poetry workshops and read poetry writing books on my kindle and mobile device all in respect of the craft.

S: A sentence of advice for aspiring authors?

A: I would advise them to digest the work of others, while staying true to your own style. I would advise them to never get discouraged by the no's you will receive when you are trying to get published. If you are steady on your course, you will win.

Thanks for Akili Amina for sharing her thoughts and story. You can view more of Akili's words and inspiration on her blog at http://akiliamina.blogspot.com/.