Voices of Young Poets digital series to celebrate Black History Month

To celebrate Black History Month, CBC Ottawa is featuring three young poets from across Ottawa who are sparking change through spoken word poetry. 

CBC Ottawa poetry project features three young poets and explores the theme of Our Legacy.

We asked each poet to write an original piece. (Supplied)

Poetry is a powerful tool to connect people and emotions, reflect and inspire, and express one's thoughts and feelings.

To celebrate Black History Month, CBC Ottawa is featuring three young poets from across Ottawa who are sparking change through spoken word poetry. 

Each original piece reflects and celebrates Black history while shining a light on the future of Black individuals and their legacy. 

Starting Wednesday, February 24, head over to @cbcottawa on Instagram to see spoken word artists MayaSpoken, Deborah Senyange, and Saeed Babalola read their poetry and share what inspired them.

Read more about our featured poets below.

Maya Basudde – "MayaSpoken"

MayaSpoken Basudde, a 2018 CBC Trailblazer, discovered poetry at a young age when she began to read. "I grew up experiencing many challenges and found my voice and my confidence through spoken word poetry."

Read her poem Dawn of Day on CBC Ottawa's Instagram @cbcottawa (Submitted by MayaSpoken)

After graduating from high school in 2015, the young poet dedicated her time to help others discover their voice through this art form, too. "What started off as an outlet, has now become my whole life alongside activism, community organizing and youth work."

The 23-year-old multi-disciplinary, award-winning, artist, speaker, educator, and activist founded Tell 'Em Girl and Loud Black Girls, to offer a space for women of all ages to be "themselves unapologetically." 

With Jamaican and Ugandan descent, Basudde (@MayaSpoken) says she pulls inspiration for her spoken word from her own perspectives and research. 

"Oftentimes when I write poetry, it feels as though the words are being given to me. Sometimes I just sit quietly and listen until my pen can flow effortlessly on a page," she says. "I imagine I am painting a picture using just my words."

As she writes poetry, one of her goals is to capture an emotion or memory in the reader so they understand the story she is trying to convey.

Her poem, Dawn of Day, reflects on her ancestors: "I wanted to tell the story of the legacy they wished to leave behind and perhaps even spoke into existence. I like to believe that I am an extension of that legacy."

Deborah Senyange

Read her poem The Future is Black on CBC Ottawa's Instagram @cbcottawa (Submitted by Deborah Senyange)

Deborah Senyange, 22, grew up in Ottawa with Ugandan heritage. She discovered poetry through music, reading, and attending spoken word events such as Tell 'Em Girl by MayaSpoken and open mic events at Carleton University – her alma mater.

After graduating from the Bachelors of Economics last Spring, Senyange (@poetrybydeb) now does activism work for Red Pearl Movement, Congo Peace Project, One Diaspora Coalition and Black Alliance for Peace. All while writing poetry on the side. 

"In my creative writing process, I like to put on good music to set the mood, read books for inspiration, and write about my feelings."

Her piece, The Future Is Black, emphasizes the power of Black skin, hair, culture, history and how it all connects to build a joyful future.

"Our legacy means making a change and leaving behind the inspiration for future generations. The meaning behind this piece is honouring the black freedom fighters of the past but also celebrating and focusing on black futures."

Saeed Babalola

Read his poem A Dream To A Vision on CBC Ottawa's Instagram @cbcottawa (by Emediong Ekong)

Saeed Babalola is a spoken word artist and an English student at Carleton University. 

The Nigerian-born poet says he discovered a passion for poetry during his junior year after engaging in a creative writing class where he had to present an original piece. This piece, titled Breath, touched on his fear of asthma and how athletics helped him trounce this struggle – it received recognition from various poets and spoken word artists across the city. 

"I feel most comfortable telling my story in my own voice," said the 18-year-old poet. "When I do begin writing, I jot down the main ideas I wish to convey and embolden them, so I remember to emphasize them throughout the poem or make them be prominently conveyed."

For Babalola (@Saeedbabalola), hip-hop and rap music have a massive influence on his work. 

The young poet says leaving a legacy is something running constantly through his mind. "A legacy that is driven by education and stabilized by hard work is the type of legacy that I wish to leave."

Head over to @cbcottawa on Instagram to see their poems.

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.