We are days away from finally being able to experience the most anticipated show that will be going down in Queens October 11!!! That’s right, Canvas of Words- Preserving Our Roots will surely leave you in awe.
For today, I have for you the next poet who is apart of this year’s Canvas of Words showcase. She is Nefertiti Asanti!!
Nefertiti Asanti is a writer and performance artist from the Bronx. She is passionate about making the lives of queer, people of color and youth communities visible. Over the past 10 years, Nefertiti has been featured in several original theatre works throughout NYC, including Needing It at the Brooklyn Arts Exchange, Theatre Askew Youth Performance Experience, and the Possibility Project.
Nefertiti Asanti will be lending her poetic voice and talent to this year’s Canvas of Words- Preserving Our Roots event! She believes that honoring our ancestors is important. Honoring who we are as a people is important. Honoring our craft is important. Asanti is here to make sure that our voices can be heard through poetry and activism. Personally, I cannot wait to hear her this Saturday, October 11th!!
Please enjoy this interview in which she speaks with passion and vigor about what it means to preserve our roots and why we must continue to learn about our culture/identity to create a positive change for the future.
Beauty, Brains and Blogging: Please let us know about yourself, the work you do, and your poetry?
Nefertiti Asanti: I’m Nefertiti Asanti, and I’m very glad my mommy gave me such purposed strong names. They really connect to the African diaspora that I’ve come to love and embrace in defining who I am, how I came to be and who I am destined to become.
Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, I was fortunate enough to come across all sorts of people.
Unfortunately, I have come to experience and witness many different forms of oppression from racism to poverty to sexism.
Since I was thirteen, I have been part of organizations that exist to advance people of color, women, youth and queer communities. These identities encompass who I am, and I’d become increasingly passionate about organizing for positive change. I saw spoken word and theatre as a way to communicate social injustice and imagine positive alternatives.
Soooo…all of this informs the poetry I write. I write a lot from personal experience, frustration, to figure things out and to creatively be in conversation with people. I have also come to understand my poetry as echoing the voice of matriarchal figures in my life, like my grandma and my mommy and my ancestors. I really like utilizing Ebonics or African American Vernacular English (AAVE) in my work as a way of preserving and honoring my culture, my roots. So often, people of color and folks from immigrant backgrounds are told to speak “proper” English, and there really isn’t “proper” English. I believe it is important to have knowledge of standard English, in order to communicate, but when it comes to relating your people, you speak the language, the dialect of your people, unabashedly.
BBB: Please, tell us what led you to be part of this years show? And why is this show important due to its theme?
N.A.: This show brought me to it! It is important to preserve and honor our roots, whenever we can. So often our roots, culture, our identities are to be celebrated one day or one month out of the year, and the rest of the time we are made to feel inferior because our roots, our culture, our identities. Any opportunity for me to be proud of and in celebration of who I am is an opportunity I can commit to wholeheartedly.
BBB: When we speak of preserving our history, our roots and passing it down to the generations to come, what comes to mind? And can you please let us in on what you will be bringing to this year’s Canvas of Words?
N.A.: I’ve been writing since I was a child, well, scribbling, mocking the “big people”. I thought if I could write in script like adults, that I affectionately called “the big people”, they would pay attention to me and invite me into grown folk conversation. The first poem I can remember sticking with me is Langston Hughes, “Harlem.” My mommy is a teacher, so she wrote that poem up on big chart paper and posted it on the wall of my bedroom door. I would recite that poem before going to bed.
My mommy instilled in me a strong sense of who I am as young Black women and the beautiful, creative heritage I came from. This really stuck with me because in school, I felt like Black culture and history is often defined by pain, bondage and slavery, as if our culture started once we were discovered and exploited by our oppressors. In school, history books do not reflect back to us our history, and it is important that we remember our roots run deeper than what exists in history books.
For this year’s Canvas of Words, I intend to channel the voices of our ancestors from our current and past generations, bring forth the wisdom they’ve bestowed unto me, through the gift of words and bring a call to healing,
Here is a snippet of Nefertiti Asanti’s work:
We were body and soul bound insistent on creation
That would usher us into the era of you,
The newness, the promise, the future of you
We knew that some of you would forget our names
Or keep swallowing our names back down your throat
When it seem like it don’t matter.
Still, don’t mean you can call us.
We speak silence.
Just acknowledge we exist
The way your flesh knows the wind,
Even if your eyes never seent it.
I hope you have enjoyed this brief interview with Nefertiti Asanti!! I think that the Canvas of Words line up will be off the hook!! All of the poets so far have shown us a little bit about themselves and their work that will guarantee for an amazing show! Don’t only take my word for it, come see it for yourself. Check out the flyer for info and the link for tickets.
See ya’ll there.
This has been Beauty, Brains and Blogging approved!! 😉