Toronto

This Grade 12 student's poem shines light on those 'Living in the Margins'

Grade 12 student Eyitayo Kunle-Oladosu turned a drama class assignment into a cause that takes on the stereotypes of black, indigenous and poor people in a spoken word poem called "Living in the Margins."

HERstory in Black: The Next Generation profiles 7 young black women making a mark in their communities

Eyitayo Kunle-Oladosu is a grade 12 student at Harold Brathwaite Secondary School in Brampton who wrote the poem, "Living in the Margins."

Grade 12 student Eyitayo Kunle-Oladosu turned a drama class assignment into a cause that takes on the stereotypes of black, indigenous and poor people in a spoken word poem called "Living in the Margins."

"I knew I wanted to write about the marginalization of minority groups in Canada and how their needs are not addressed sufficiently in our political system," Kunle-Oladosu explained.

"But then I was looking for a creative way to really get that point across to people who may not have that experience. And I looked at that paper and I looked at the margin and I got that idea of expressing to people what it's like to not have your voice heard."

It's an experience she knows all too well. Kunle-Oladosu came to Canada from Nigeria in 2005.

Eyitayo Kunle-Oladosu performs her spoken word poem "Living in the Margins" in front of an audience at her Brampton school Harold M. Brathwaite Secondary School. (Paul Borkwood/CBC)

Something that's triggered curiosity in some, but also what she calls "micro-aggressions" in others.

"That could be things like people saying to me, as someone who is from Nigeria, a country that's on the coast of West Africa, someone saying to me, 'Oh did you grow up in a hut? Did you grow up in a village?' she recalled.

"Or someone thinking about my hair or the way I dress and asking me, 'Can I touch it?' Something that you would never say to someone who didn't look like me."

Eyitayo Kunle-Oladosu’s spoken word poem takes on stereotypes. 4:55

Beyond Living in the Margins: "​Young people are the changemakers"

Her spoken word poem is just one of the many ways Kunle-Oladosu advocates for marginalized communities. She founded a model United Nations Chapter at her Brampton high school, Harold M. Brathwaite Secondary School.

She's a driving force in organizing her school's Black History Month events.

The student was the recipient of a $1,500 scholarship in the RBC Black History Month Student Essay Competition where she wrote about Rosemary Brown, the first black female member of British Columbia's Legislative Assembly.

It's all part of her belief that young people have the ability to change their communities.

"I would definitely say that young people are the changemakers," said Kunle-Oladosu.

"With the impacts of technology and social media - how one person starts a movement in one part of the world with a hashtag, it can spread like rapidfire everywhere."

Her message to anyone living in the margins: 

"Find your way into places that refuse to accept you."

"Push for your identity and push to preserve it in our society, because there are so many people who want to tell us what we should be like and what we should act like and who we are, but we have the sole right to find that."

About the Author

Marivel Taruc

Host of Our Toronto

Marivel Taruc is an award-winning journalist and weekend anchor of CBC Saturday, and CBC Toronto News at 11 on Sundays. She is also the host of Our Toronto. Marivel graduated from Ryerson University with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism. She is happiest when she's gathered around the dinner table with her husband and two daughters - and a plateful of Filipino food.

now