Writing about Home: WOC’s First Poetry Workshop

Women+of+Color+group+photo+from+last+year.

Courtesy of WOC

Women of Color group photo from last year.

Sacha Feldberg, Contributing Writer

My Friday evening was filled with poetry, love, some laughter, carrot cake, and high-quality conversations with high-quality people via Zoom. How was your Friday evening?

Friday, Oct. 9 was Womxn of Color’s first poetry workshop, led by Lauren Reed ‘23. Reed took the lead in this workshop because of her love for poetry. Nine people, including myself, attended the event. It was a vulnerable, mindful, and accepting virtual space where participants listened to Reed’s presentation, shared their thoughts regarding different slam poetry videos, and shared their own poetry if they were willing. 

“Quick disclaimer: I am not Hispanic or Latinx,” Reed said at the beginning of the meeting. “In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, we wanted to give honor to this culture in a way that was fun, entertaining, and maybe not in a way that is usually done. We don’t have a program — just exploring poetry, because that may be a part of people’s cultures in general that tends to be left out.”

To give some historical context, Reed explained that Hispanic Heritage Month is from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. It starts on Sept. 15 because this is the anniversary of many Latin American countries, including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala. This period celebrates the histories, cultures, and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.

“As I was doing research, I wanted to mention that Hispanic Heritage Month is just as exciting and important as Women’s History Month or Black History Month,” Reed said. “Hopefully in the future, this month will become more popular and less of a thing that we have to struggle to remember.”

The first item on the agenda was to read “My Dad Says” by Naomi Ayala. We did a version of “popcorn” reading where everyone read a line. Then, we watched Denice Frohman perform her poem “Accents” and Elizabeth Acevedo perform “Afro-Latina.” We discussed the poems’ meanings, our favorite lines, and what stood out to us most from the performances.

“I loved the whole workshop,” Keirston Johnson ‘21, co-president of Womxn of Color, said later in an email interview. “But I really enjoyed the discussion that followed each poem where we talked about some of the larger themes we found like home, identity, belonging and language.”

The last poem we listened to was “Poems in which I only use vowels” by Paola Capó-García before we launched into the writing portion of the workshop.

“So we’ve looked at a few poems,” Reed said. “A few themes I’ve found were language, family, identity, and pride. For the next seven to ten minutes, we’re going to take some time to write some poetry. It can be about whatever you want. Let’s create something. Let’s write.”

The Zoom session went almost completely quiet as everyone went on mute, drifting off into the realms of our minds and channeling our inner poets. Ten minutes whizzed by, but perhaps this is just the nature of writing. 

When time was up, Kemunto Ongera ‘23 offered to share her piece first, a piece called “Where is my home?”

They say home is where you grew up 

That its the walls that witnessed your every cry and laughter

They say home is the where you go back to when you’re tired and beat from the long hard days

It’s the place that will never reject you, for what is a home if it’ll never embrace you 

It’s the place that will never reject you 

So where is my home when I’m all alone in a foreign land?

I no longer recognise these walls as my own

These walls aren’t colorful 

These walls aren’t kind 

These walls aren’t littered with the stains of my childhood

These walls aren’t my own

So where is my home when I’m so far away?

P.S: Home was always inside you, home is whatever you let it be

It’s those long hour phone calls 

It’s the ‘home’, I mean ‘dorm’ cooked meals

It’s the loud blasting afrobeat songs that demand you to bust a move

It’s the friendly smiles

It’s the warm hugs 

It’s the strong Kenyans accents, for me

Home is home

or whatever that means. 

 

There was a little silence, and then Reed volunteered to share her poem about home. The Zoom space was still as we waited for her to begin. 

 

I miss you 

the way you hug me too tightly 

I miss your food 

the way spices and seafood dance together creating music in my mouth 

I miss your music 

the way Gospel, Blues, R&B, and New Orleans bounce beats blare so loudly that the whole house shakes 

I miss you 

I am not with you right now, but I wish I was 

You gave me home,

You gave me sunshine,

You gave me love,

You gave me stars,

You gave me song, 

You gave me an accent I can’t hide because the way I say “accent” is accented 

The world gives you nothing but rain, wind, and hurricanes

Unforeseen pain 

Some storms nobody should ever endure.

After these two readings, all of us snapped our fingers to the screen, which is basically the Zoom version of a live audience clapping. It was the end of the event. The good news is that this will not be the last poetry event of this kind in fact, it is only the beginning.

Johnson said that she looks forward to hosting similar events in the future for this club.

“We plan on hosting a range of creative workshops, including spoken word poetry, virtual dance workshops, and collective writing workshops,” Johnson said. “With these workshops, we hope to offer more opportunities for women of color to bring different aspects of their cultures and experiences into a creative space.”

The poetry workshop ended, and we all left the Zoom chat, dreaming about the weekend ahead and promising ourselves more importantly — to submit our freshly-baked poems to Snaggletooth Magazine as soon as possible.