When Ahmed “Knowmadic” Ali arrived in Canada at the age of eight, he could speak two languages — but not English. The City of Edmonton’s poet laureate was born in Somalia and moved to Italy when he was four before coming to Canada. He kept speaking Somali at home, dropped Italian and began to learn English. “Learning English was challenging,” Ali told CBC’s Radio Active. “I got made fun of a lot — FOB, fresh-off-the-boat stuff.” Radio Active Ahmed ‘Knowmadic’ Ali on his first year as poet laureate, Edmonton’s seventh poet laureate Ahmed ‘Knowmadic’ Ali talks about his determination to make art more accessible for communities. “Whenever somebody made fun of me, I went further to excel. Success is the best form of revenge.” Ali’s English teacher introduced him to prominent poets of the past century, including Tupac Shakur, Maya Angelou and Langston Hughes. It was there he found his love of poetry and the English language. “Shout out to Maya Angelou and Tupac who died that made my flow smooth, because it no longer matters that I used to be verbally constipated. These days I have regular vowel movements and I effortlessly pass class,” Ali said. Chosen as Edmonton’s seventh poet laureate last June, Ali has focused on making art more accessible for the communities he grew up in and around. “I’m trying to bring shows that are high-calibre but at the same time affordable for people in my communities,” he said. But he’s also hoping to make art created in certain communities more accessible to other communities. There is some impressive work in tight-knit groups, he said, and he wants to provide an avenue for those people to show off their work to the greater Edmonton community.
Alyesha Wise’s Poem, “To This Black Woman Body, Part I” Will Give You Life. Alyesha Wise is a poet, performer, and teaching artist originally from Camden, N.J. In this poem, that is both beautifully written and searingly honest, Ms. Wise speaks on what it means to inhabit a Black woman’s body today.
There are so many remarkable lines and truths spoken in this piece. Some of our favorite lines include: We are too often educated by fools / A fool will say, “Your skin does not make you a god” / Well, my belief in it certainly does / My Black is a boastful believer / My blackness is a silent Scripture
… the best way to teach a dark child how to love themselves / is to be the walking example of a dark woman who loves herself
If this here ain’t black and woman enough / then my black and woman enough body just don’t want you / then roll your eyes…
The poem explores many intersecting themes: self-love, body image, identity, and Black womanhood. This is not surprising, considering Wise’s work as a teaching artist and the founder of the community organization titled “Love, Us,” which focuses on fighting injustice through promoting love and empowerment.
You can find more information about Alyesha Wise at her website: www.mswisedecision.com.
If you’re in need of a little reminder that your Black is boldly beautiful, watch Alyesha Wise’s “To This Black Woman Body, Part I”. It’s on youtube.