Poet Presents on Themes of Cultural Appropriation, Identity
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Poet Porsha Olayiwola, also known as Porsha O., performed in ATS Saturday night and held an interactive workshop while on campus on cultural appropriation and black bodies, among other themes. The event, sponsored by the Multi-Organization Board (MOB), had about 90 students in attendance, filling in section B of the auditorium.
Students shuffled in, greeted by Beyonce’s “Lemonade” before taking their seats as student poets Hayat Rasul ’19 and Calayah Heron ’19 prepared to take the stage.
Opening for Olayiwola, both students are members of Dickinson’s spoken word poetry troupe “eXiled.” They performed pieces that, in part, explored their experiences as women of color in the U.S. Olayiwola tackled this theme as well once she took the stage, performing poems about slavery, cultural appropriation and the cultural implications of Miley Cyrus. A theme throughout her performance was the politics of the black body both historically in the U.S. as well as in the modern context. Some poems were performed more like monologues, recited from memory, while others were read from various journals she carried. Towards the end of her show, Olayiwola read from her latest chapbook what she called an “experimental” piece about happiness. The piece, accompanied by music underneath, experimented with repetition and intonation. In addition, Olayiwola performed one of her most well-known pieces entitled “Capitalism” which has over 100,000 views on YouTube.
Olayiwola has claimed champion titles in various poetry slams, including first place in the Individual World Poetry Slam in 2014 and first place in the National Poetry Slam the following year. In addition to touring and performing, Olayiwola has found a way to incorporate her two greatest passions of “poetry and youth” as she also works as the Lead-Teaching Artist and Program Manager at Mass Leap, a youth literary organization.
During a question and answer session following her show, Olayiwola tells the audience of her upcoming book that will explore magical realism, as her current poem “Black Spells” does. She cites Zora Neale Hurston as her favorite author and entertained questions inquiring how she came to be a full-time poet. She admitted to the audience that the decision to quit her job as a high school dean to pursue poetry full-time was a difficult one, but having been working for nearly three years now as a professional poet she feels that she has made the right decision, as her ultimate goal is to create a sort of permanence of her experience so that others who relate with her story have literature with which they can identify.
As her show tackled themes of marginalization, Olayiwola led a workshop the following Sunday morning, Feb. 12, in Althouse. Designed to “combat problematic themed parties, misogyny, socio-economic discrepancies and other forms of oppression,” her interactive workshop examined “privilege, oppression and diversity” on campus.
To learn more, follow her tour or read her poetry visit porshaolayiwola.com or follow her on instagram @porshao.