Living the Spoken Word


By Shamya Hill |  When I think of Black Voices in literature, I think of my favorite spoken word artists such as Javon Johnson, Steven Willis, and Danez Smith performing pieces regarding being Black men in America. I remember stumbling upon Javon Johnson’s poem, “The Shotgun,” and I started crying because it was the first time I encountered a writer who could capture everything I wanted to say but could not articulate. His poem unlocked something inside of me that I didn’t even know existed, and at that moment, I realized the importance of Black voices. Something happens when your experience, pain, anger, love, etc., is validated by others who resemble you, and they use their voice to give your story a name.

Black voices are important in literature because they can encapsulate an experience and give breath to what it means to be Black in America. There is pain and anger in the Black experience, but there is also love and happiness. When we speak about it, we give it a name, and it doesn’t die. When we speak about it, we allow it to live in a space that doesn’t demand it be toned down for White audiences. For me, when I watch a performance by one of my favorite Black artists, I become very emotional because he or she is giving my experience a name and is explaining something for which I cannot find the words.

Shamya Hill is a food lover and English Major at Medgar Evers College, CUNY.

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