Posted by: Viola | April 16, 2015

Poetry reading for the Chibok girls and Yobe boys

Today, my poetry reading for the Chibok girls was a great way to remember and honor the young victims of terrorism in Africa, Nigeria and the world over. I read two poems from my Bird From Africa chapbook. These two poems dealt with schooling, in one way or another. I also read my poem written specifically for the Chibok girls, which was published yesterday at the African Book Review. You can find my Birds of Chibok poem by following this link.

After reading my poems, I read a poem by Zimbabwean poet and scholar Tsitsi Jaji. Her poem was a tribute to the Chibok girls and the Yobe boys. I had not known about Boko Haram’s killing of schoolboys in Nigeria last year. This was my first time hearing about this. I am not sure how I missed that in the news. So reading about them, the harrowing and garish work of Boko Haram like what they did to the Yobe boys, was disheartening and horrifying. To read about them, here’s a link. It’s beyond terrorism, what Boko Haram is doing.

Tsitsi Jaji’s poem for the Chibok and Yobe students was a wonderful way to remember both the girls and boys, young men and women, youthful scholars, who have been victims of terrorism. After reading her poem, I read one final piece by Argentinian poet Juan Gelman, a poem called Saint Theresa. Juan Gelman was an exiled poet, persecuted for his political activism in Argentina, and he suffered many losses, including losing the lives of his family members. His poem I read today taps into the deep, interior place survivors of terror must go to, in order to find peace and to stay alive and forge ahead. The editor of the African Book Review shared this amazing poem of Juan Gelman’s with me yesterday and it fit so wonderfully with the reading today.

I am deeply appreciative of these poems written by gifted poets like Tsitsi Jaji and Juan Gelman, because it takes many voices speaking up and out to fight the injustices and cruelty of our world. Often times, I feel that my words are simply not enough, and honestly, I felt worried about the reading because I don’t really know how to talk about the deeply painful and traumatic reality of terrorism–I am not able to fully process it mentally or emotionally or on any level. So how to even talk or write about it? Being able to have the poems (and voices) of other poets made me feel that it is possible to shout, scream, mourn, and fight–together. And in doing so, we do not have to succumb to apathy and silence and fear.

I am grateful to all those who attended the reading and helped me remember and honor the lives of these young men and women in Nigeria. The reading strengthened my view that we must continue to read about these innocents, write for them, sing and hope and pray for them, read for them, raise our awareness and love and light for them, tell their stories, say their names if we can. We must not give in to hopelessness but do what we can to built hope and faith for a world in which children and live and go to school and learn in safety.

Also, on my mind today were the students of Garissa, Kenya and Peshawar, Pakistan…and all students and young people across the globe who are victims of terrorism. I hold out hope for a world where this kind of news does not exist because the world is full of peace. I hope it is not a dream but a reality someday soon. I’m going to hold on to that hope, even if it feels so fleeting.


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