January 21, 2017 1:10 PM EST – Artist Aja Monet recited a poem titled “My mother was a freedom fighter” at the Women’s March on Washington. Monet told the crowds that language is powerful and it was “the power of words” that got President Trump into office. (The Washington Post)
“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.”
I am honored to share “NoMaDs” with you all.
Here is a song & poem I recorded while living in Paris with music by Buddy Sativa & Nicky Lars.
I am so grateful to have collaborated with my good friend Ben Connors to illustrate visuals for this piece and to have worked with Piers Dennis on filming the whole process.
I have so many dreams and visions of collaborations I would love to live through and sometimes the universe sees it fit to help me make those happen. This is one of those moments a vision became a reality. I am extremely honored to share this with you all and I hope that it moves you as it moves me each and every time. Big love.
Feel free to share with those souls most similar to ours, us nomads. For those of us who wander toward the feeling of our hearts…
Legal H.S. Brooklyn, NY. Candid in the classroom by @unapologeticshay #poetry #pushschools #urbanarts
❤ Last night I rambled in front of a beautiful room of souls. Thank you to everyone that made their way to witness my vulnerable heart. It was sold out. I’m honored to accomplish that here in my hometown of NYC. #cubana #poetry #storytelling
TONIGHT We Shine! “Querida Revolución, Soy Tu Nieta” December 6th, 2013 7pm-9pm $12before/$15at door… www.nuyorican.org #cuba #havana #poetry #nofilter shot by@daphnekolader
Handmade merch available tomorrow at my show! So looking forward to this. ❤ #poetry #ajamonet
TOMORROW!! “Querida Revolución, Soy Tu Nieta” December 6th, 2013 7pm-9pm $12before/$15at door. Purchase tickets at: www.nuyorican.org. PRESALE IS OVER AT 5PM TOMORROW. See you soon! #cuba #guantanamo #santiago #havana #ajamonet #poetry #nyc