Arts + Culture

8 Spoken Word Poets and Pieces to Watch on a Rainy (Any) Day from the Diaspora

We've gathered together some of our favorite spoken word artists and writers from in and around the diaspora.

For those rainy summer days where you find yourself trapped in the house aimlessly searching for something to do, something to watch, something to get excited about, we got you covered. As a homage to the poetics of it all, we've decided to garner another summer round-up, this time of our favorite spoken word pieces and poets.


And coincidentally, as Immigrant Heritage Month carries the month, these powerful pieces mark stories on being first-generation, on names, heritage and identity throughout the diaspora. So whenever you find some free time this summer, check out these amazing lyricists and authors who are sure to have you snapping by the syllable, nodding your head and shedding tears that you'll reluctantly blame on the high pollen count (but we know the truth).

1. George the Poet

Born to Ugandan parents, George the Poet born George Mpanga is a British spoken word artist and rapper garnering national and international acclaim. Hailed for his social commentary intertwined with music and words, George the Poet speaks on his life growing up in the inner-city streets of London, of representation, blackness and youth.

The twenty-five year old University of Cambridge alum released his first EP in 2014 titled The Chicken and the Egg and has been touring and releasing pieces ever since. In February, he released his first collection of poems and lyrics titled Search Party.

2. TJ Dema

Hailing from Botswana, TJ Dema is a lyricist, a poet, an artist and a founder of SAUTI, an arts and performance management organization. The former chairperson of The Writers Association of Botswana, Dema published her first chapbook titled Mandible in 2014. Dema speaks on home, on the power of words and self with a sweet confidence and unhurried resilience. Most recently, Dema gave a Tedx talk earlier this year on the contradictions and relationships between imagination and knowledge. You can watch it here.

3. Aja Monet

At 19, Aja Monet became the youngest winner of the famed Nuyorican Poet's Cafe Grand Slam title. Of Cuban-Jamaican descent, Monet hails from Brooklyn, New York. In 2010, Monet independently published The Black Unicorn Sings followed by Inner-City Chants & Cyborg Cyphers in June of 2015, highlighting the double consciousness of women of color and personal growth. Monet also released an EP titled Courage in commemoration of the Maya Angelou poem. You can check it out here.

4. Carvens Lissaint

Writer and actor Carvens Lissaint is a Haitian-American poet from New York. Apart of The Strivers Row poetry collective, Lissaint is a graduate of the American Academy for Dramatic Arts and St. John's University. Be sure to also check out the poem “Strive" which Lissaint along with Striver Row poet Miles Hodges performed to a standing ovation.

5. Elizabeth Acevedo

Elizabeth Acevedo is an Afro-Dominicana who writes on heritage, home and her upbringing. A National Slam Champion and a representative for Washington D.C. at this year's Women of the World Poetry slam, Acevedo's work has been featured virally on numerous publications. Check out her numerous videos on Youtube (including "Hair") as well as her Tedx talk titled “I use my poetry to confront the violence against women." Her manuscript, Blessed Fruit & Other Origin Myths was selected for the Yes Yes Books' chapbook poetry prize, and will be published in September 2016.

6. Porsha Olayiwola

Porsha Olayiwola is a Nigerian-Chicagoan, and the reigning Individual World Poetry Slam Champion. Her bio reads herself to be a “black, poet, dyke-goddess, hip-hop feminist, womanist, friend. Porsha Olayiwola is a performance artist who believes in pixie dust and second chances." Her chapbook Porsha O. is expected to be released in July of this year. Olayiwola made waves earlier this year for her riveting poem “Rekia Boyd" speaking of the many women killed by police brutality and the silence that often echos after, the disparities on the harm inflicted on black women and a world that often overlooks the injury.

7. Alyssia Harris

A PhD candidate at Yale University, Alyssia Harris is an internationally acclaimed name in the world of spoken poetry. Born in Fremont, California, Harris grew up in Alexandria, VA. Apart of The Strivers Row poetry collective, Harris' famed poem, “That Girl" garnered her an HBO Documentary feature. She released her chapbook “How Much We Looked Like Stars to Stars," which won the 2015 New Women's Voice Chapbook Contest. Touring around the world, her videos have accumulated over 3 million views on Youtube.

8. Mustafa Ahmed

Mustafa Ahmed is a performing artist from Toronto's Regent Park neighborhood. The 17 year-old has been making waves since he was 12 after being featured in the Toronto Star for his poetry. Writing on his upbringing, on Islam, immigration and youth, Ahmed has opened up for artists like Jhene Aiko, has performed at TedxToronto, and has traveled around the world sharing his poetry. Mustafa released his first EP, Mustafa The Poet EP in February, which you can stream here.

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Aminata Tejan-Thomas, Saidu Tejan-Thomas' mother. Image courtesy of Saidu Tejan-Thomas.

In ‘Borders Between Us’ Poet Saidu Tejan-Thomas Embarks on a Journey to Rediscover His Mother's Life

In his new audio essay the Sierra Leonean poet and storyteller shares a deeply personal, yet relatable, tale of familial relationships, sacrifice and forgiveness.

Saidu Tejan-Thomas first began writing poetry while pursuing a public relations degree at the Virginia Commonwealth University. While he soon discovered that PR wasn't the career path for him, he also discovered that poetry and writing were a meaningful outlet for his passion for storytelling. An interest in podcasting and audio work developed soon after. In his newly published audio essay, Borders Between Us, the accomplished poet fuses this talent for spoken word, writing, and auditory storytelling to take listeners on a personal journey of family, migration and forgiveness.

Born in Sierra Leone, Tejan-Thomas moved to Alexandria, Virginia in middle school to live with his mother, who had immigrated there shortly after his birth. This began a process of learning and unlearning his mother's story and the complex intergenerational dynamics that shaped their relationship. In the Borders Between Us, the writer shares detailed memories from his childhood, introspective observations about identity, and an enlightening conversation with his aunt that brings him close to understanding who his mother was as a person. It's a journey that many of us take on a deeply personal level, but one that some might be hesitant to share. Tejan-Thomas, instead, shares his journey openly and honestly.

OkayAfrica recently spoke with Tejan-Thomas about his latest audio work, which he described as "an essay and a poem all in one." Read our conversation below and listen to the Borders Between Us via the public radio platform Transom.org.

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Photo by Samir Hussein/WireImage

George the Poet Declined Becoming a Member of the Order of the British Empire

The Ugandan-British spoken word poet says the British empire is 'pure evil' because of the impact colonization has had on Africans.

Ugandan-British poet George the Poet, real name George Mpanga, reportedly declined an offer to become a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE). The award is the third-highest ranking of the Order of the British Empire and an order of chivalry which is given to individuals in recognition of their contribution to the arts or sciences and public service that is outside of the civil service sector. On the final episode of his popular BBC podcast Have You Heard George's Podcast? the poet cited his reasons for declining the offer by saying that the British empire is "pure evil".

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Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Trump Plans to Extend Travel Ban to Nigeria, Tanzania, Sudan, Eritrea & Three Other Countries

Here's what the travel ban could mean for these nations.

On Tuesday is was announced that Donald Trump's administration plans to extend its infamous travel ban to include seven new countries, many of them in Africa.

The countries named on the list, include Nigeria, Tanzania, Sudan and Eritrea, as well as Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, and the Eastern European nation of Belarus. Politico first broke the news.

According to The Washington Post, the move would likely not be a complete ban on citizens looking to enter the US, however it could place various visa restrictions on some government officials and on those seeking certain type of visitor and business visas.

Some nations could also be banned from participation in the diversity travel lottery program, which grants green cards. Trump has threatened to sack the program in the past.

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A-Reece Releases His Second Song of 2020 ‘Selfish [EXP 2]’

Listen to A-Reece's new song 'Selfish [EXP 2].'

A-Reece has released another song via SoundCloud. "Selfish" is a minimalist song with its beat consisting mostly of gnarled guitar strings and a pulsating bongo drum.

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