Poet Aja Monet Confronts Police Brutality Against Black Women With #SayHerName

“Melissa Williams,” Aja Monet reads, “Darnisha Harris.” Her voice is strong; it marches along, but it shakes a little, although not from nerves. She’s performing a poem that includes the forgotten names of girls and women who’ve been injured or killed by the police. She finishes forcefully, then pauses, exhales. “Can I do that again?” she asks. “It’s my first time reading it out loud, and … ” she trails off.

Monet had written the poem — a contribution to the #SayHerName campaign, a necessary CONTINUATION of the Black Lives Matter movement focusing on overlooked police violence against women — earlier that morning. That evening, she’d read it at a vigil. Now, she was practicing on camera, surprised by the power of her own words.

As a poet, Monet is prolific. She’s been performing both music and readings for some time — at 19, she was the youngest ever WINNER of New York City’s Nuyorican Poet’s Café Grand Slam — and her work has brought her to France, Bermuda and Cuba, from where her grandmother fled, and where she recently learned she still has extended family. Next month, she’ll return to visit them. But first, she wants to contribute to a campaign she believes in.

Though she’s disheartened that a hashtag is necessary to capture people’s attention — “I think #SayHerName is the surface LEVEL of the issues but beneath that there is the real question of, ‘Why?’” she says — Monet wields her art to achieve social and political justice. While discussing political poetry with a fellow artist in Palestine, he observed, “Art is more political than politics.” “I feel him,” she says. “I think he’s right.”

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Writers Weekend at Summerville

  • Sat
    18
    Apr
    2015

    Writer's Weekend at Summerville

    10am Now in its third year, Writers Weekend at Summerville, a conference for emerging writers, is an event designed to bring together emerging and established voices who share a love of and passion for reading and writing. Participants will learn from award-winning authors who will discuss elements of craft and share their published creative nonfiction, fiction and poetry. GRU faculty and local writers will also lead writing workshops for attendees seeking community and feedback. In addition, creative writing students will read from their work and discuss their experiences in the Creative Writing PROGRAM at GRU. Former PRESENTERS at THE CONFERENCE include Jerico Brown, Bronwen Dickey, Eric Smith, Michel Stone, Susan Tekulve, and Deno Trakas. http://gru.edu/colleges/pamplin/efl/writersweekend/ Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 1.23.56 PM

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