Arts

'Where is our light?' Roen Higgins's poetry on race and mental health is searching for a way forward

In her poem Dark Phase, Higgins is looking for the light after the uprising.

In her poem Dark Phase, Higgins is looking for the light after the uprising

'Where is our light?' Roen Higgins's poetry on race and mental health is searching for a way forward

CBC Arts

3 days ago
0:29
In her poem Dark Phase, Higgins is looking for the light after the uprising. 0:29

It's National Poetry Month, and for the fifth edition of Poetic License, we decided to celebrate short poems from poets across Canada. In these illustrated videos, you'll hear from emerging talent, award-winning poets and poets laureate, plus the three Canadians on the Griffin Poetry Prize shortlist — the world's largest international prize for a first-edition single collection of poetry written in or translated into English.

Montreal-based Roen Higgins knows a lot about the power of words to shift perspectives. Raised in foster care, she was written off by many from a young age. But she persevered, working for the English Montreal School Board for 20 years and sharing her empowering voice using many avenues, including life coaching, public speaking and spoken word. She was recently featured in CBC Quebec's Black Changemakers series.

In 2018, one of her former students was killed by police. The debilitating consistency with which violence against members of the Black community has played out — in this past year especially — has led Higgins to ruminate on the impact it has on the mental health of her community. This led to a powerful piece she performed last year called I Am A Witness. In this video, she delves once again into themes of race and mental health and searches for a way forward with Dark Phase.

Listen to Roen Higgins perform Dark Phase in the video above and read the poem below.

Dark Phase

by Roen Higgins

-----

For many moons
I circled the axis of truth
Until the uprising.
Birthed from deadly silence
Exploding rocks and dust
fallen stars
Impact!
Quiet Trauma 
unraveling soul
are systems 
where justice disappears
and blackness is void
Where is our light?

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See more from Poetic License.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lucius Dechausay is a video producer at CBC Arts, as well as a freelance illustrator and filmmaker. His short films and animations have been screened at a number of festivals including The Toronto International Film Festival and Hot Docs. Most recently he directed KETTLE, which is currently streaming at CBC Short Docs.

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