The Spoken Word

Watch this:

That’s from Love Jones, a classic movie in Black cinema that demands your viewership if you have not yet seen it. Seriously. Go watch it now.

Where oh where can I find my own Darius Lovehall?

In my junior year of high school, I went through a tumultuous breakup and felt all the icky feelings that are associated with young love and losing your first love, and I was blocked creatively, sort of like how mucus congests your throat. It sucked. I took a creative writing class that year, and it was the best decision I had ever made – well, besides my acceptance to NYU.

I had never liked poetry. Reading it, writing it, it was all very… excessive to me.

My creative writing teacher, Mrs. Mellor, AKA, one of my biggest literary supporters, required the class to free-write in a journal every day for five minutes before class started. On the first day of class, I literally started off my free-write like this:

“Feb. 17th, 2014. She told us to head the page with the date. Creative Writing class… mixed feelings I guess? This class requires a lot of partner and sharing time. I’m not so big on that.”

I ended the free-write with this naïve statement: “Hopefully I get past being an urchin to the whole sharing-powwow-mellow-get in touch with your feelings aspect of the class. That’s not creativity to me. Just being you is creative enough. Why do I have to get in touch with my soul? News flash: I’m already in touch with my soul. Let’s just write.” SO NAÏVE.

Only a week later, I realized just how much I wasn’t in touch with my soul or my feelings.

I wrote my first poem that would also become my first spoken word piece, called “The Flight.” It was about a girl who falls in love with a boy who could fly, and their tragic love story. At the end of the poem, the girl realizes she doesn’t need the boy to fly, as she can grow her own wings. I identify the girl as myself at the end of the poem. Mrs. Mellor showed us videos from Def Poetry Jam in class, and the first one was Gina Loring’s “Somewhere There Is A Poem.”

I fell in love. The rhythm, the tone of her voice, the power of her words, everything about it fascinated me. Especially her confidence. That breakup had stripped me of the little confidence I had in the beginning of high school, and little did I know, poetry was going to reimburse me for my troubles.

After watching that video in class, I asked my mother to buy me all of the seasons of Def Poetry Jam. I own every season except for one now. I watch it for inspiration. It simply blows my mind that people can create these rhymes and take you on a journey with only their voice and their words. It made me fall in love with the written word even more.

In March, my high school’s Barnes and Noble Open Mic Night was approaching, and I decided that I needed to perform. I was going to read “The Flight.” So I auditioned, made my choir teacher cry, and was put on the show list. I read “The Flight” timidly, but I read it. And the response I got from the crowd was worth more than any boy’s cheap smile. Even better, how I felt after walking away from the mic was extraordinary. I was untouchable.

For about three months after, I could only write love poems. Teenage breakups are hard, man. I was plagued by wrenching heartaches every time I passed him in the hallway, and immediately took to the pen. I created an Instagram account for poetry, an account that accepted poem submissions and encouraged others to share their pieces, and actually won a contest with one of the poems I posted. (It’s been inactive for quite some time now, but the pieces are still up, and if you want to take a look, go here.)

The second time I performed spoken word was a month later, in April, after an impulse decision with my friend Jessenia to audition for the school talent show together. It was a duet poem, titled “Life in Love and Love in Life” (I wasn’t so great with titles yet). Performing for 300 people was terrifying. I was used to doing school musicals, where I performed in front of 300 people singing and dancing and regurgitating lyrics and lines from known pieces.

This, was me standing on a stage, sharing my own words and emotions with strangers that didn’t know me from Adam. Yet, after the talent show, my Twitter inbox and text messages were flooded by friends and strangers telling me that they related to my poem and that it touched them. It was an incredible feeling. I wanted to reach this many people when I became an author, and didn’t ever believe that I could do it any other way.

I became addicted. I was writing poems nearly every week and knew I had to perform again, and soon. So then came May. I spearheaded a launch event for my school’s literary and art magazine. It was a “garden release party,” with refreshments, live music, and an open mic. I performed two poems, one that I had written the day before.

Spoken word was fun, it was exhilarating, and most importantly, it was gratifying, because I knew that I would be making someone feel what I felt when I first heard Gina Loring spit her poem.

The next year, I performed a poem called “Black in Time” for my school’s Black History Month assembly, a feminist poem titled “The Untold Story of the Teenage Girl” in my school’s talent show (I did it solo – eep!), and then “Hourglass” at the second annual garden release party for the literary and art magazine. Each time, I tried something different with my poems, different rhyme schemes, incorporating music, different intonations – spoken word was all about creative experimentation. I even read a poem over the PA system when I was running for Senior Class President that was all rhyme, telling the senior class why they should vote for me. As I write this, I laugh at how gimmicky that move was.

I submitted a poem in a Scholarship Slam Contest, and still have not received notice of the winner (cross your fingers for me). It is my most viewed poem on YouTube, my most read and commented poem on, and my most widely received poem. It is called “Black Girl, Black Girl.”

Two nights ago, I performed spoken word for the first time while at NYU, at the Black Student Union’s Poetry Night. I haven’t written a poem in a long time, so I performed an old piece, “The Same Dream.”

I was amongst real poets, people who performed at CUPSI (College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational), who WON CUPSI for NYU, who lived and breathed poetry. It was such an inspiring atmosphere, creatively charged and warmly accepting. Crystal Valentine, one of my favorite poets, the 9th ranked poet in the world (!!!!!!!), and fellow NYU student, closed the open mic night. I cannot even describe her, so I am simply going to provide you with these two videos:

Yeah, exactly. I had the privilege of seeing “Tempest” performed live, and I almost couldn’t contain myself in my chair. Aaliyah Jihad, an acutal classmate of mine, performed “From My Mother to Her Late Daughter,” and I was floored by the honor to also see that performed live.

The purpose of this post is truly just to highlight the usually forgotten aspect of the written word, the side that people shy away from, the mouth that speaks only truth. Without that breakup during my junior year of high school, I wouldn’t have ever written “The Flight,” would have never performed spoken word for the first time, and would not have found confidence in my words as quickly as I did during high school. Poetry matured me. I can’t truly accredit my journey solely to that breakup and my ex, however, because I was the one who bounced back. I could have fell deep into the traps of heartbreak that most teenage girls do, but I took initiative and turned to a creative outlet powered only by the mic and a pen. All that heartbreak did was catapult me towards the notebook.

Poetry is everywhere – dance, music, spoken word, literature, laughter, calculus equations, baking, fashion, robotics, film – it comes in all shapes and forms. Find the poetry in whatever you do. Poetry has changed my life. I hope it changes yours, too.



P.S. If you want to hear more of my spoken word, and see some of the performances I discuss in the post, visit and subscribe to my YouTube channel here.


  1. I love your journey as poet, its quite similar to mine. It was my senior year in high school and our step team was preparing for their annual Martin Luther King Jr step show. The step team recruited me and asked me to play the part of Malcolm X in a skit they were using for the show and they asked me to write a spoken work piece from his perspective. While searching for inspiration I came across Def Poetry and immediately became hooked. Like I was literally an addict. And from that point on I could stop writing. Please check but my blog. I have some of my poetry and some of my favorite def poetry poems posted. This post was everything!

    Liked by 1 person

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