Meet your Neighbour: Fauzia Agbonhin inspires with her words
Fauzia Adetokunbo Agbonhin inspires with her words (Source: Fauzia Adetokunbo Agbonhin)
LONDON, ONT. -- Meet 19-year-old Fauzia Adetokunbo Agbonhin; inspirational poet and writer.
Originally from Nigeria, Agbonhin moved to Mississauga when she was five years old. By the time she was in the 11th grade, she moved to London.
Her father was a medical doctor in Nigeria but had to retake his exams upon coming to Canada. They eventually relocated to London when her father found a posting and her brother decided to attend Western University.
The transition wasn't an easy one for Agbonhin as she felt London lacked in diversity, especially where she was living.
"I was the second black girl in my grade in high school and I constantly found myself educating the people around me. I educated my peers and micro aggressors…I also educated the people around me on black culture," she said.
She found it difficult to interact and found herself spending time alone.
In her isolation, she spent time in the English Department of her school where her teachers encouraged her to turn her experiences into art.
Her crafts include spoken word and slam poetry.
Fauzia Agbonhin inspires with her words (Source: Mika Soetaert @emiliemoonphotography)
"The difference between the two is that slam poetry is performed at 'slams'; poetry competitions where poets are rated and ranked. Spoken word is typically made to bring out a specific kind of emotion, but unlike regular written poetry, it has the advantage of tone and expression," she explains.
This art form allows the audience to hear and feel what the author wants you to hear and feel rather than making the assumption. The author expresses their words through vocalization and emotion.
Agbonhin was introduced to poetry in the second grade.
"I can't remember much of this year, but I do remember performing a poem called, 'Africa, my Africa', by David Diop during the poetry unity. The poem was about slavery and it resonated with me a lot at the time when my class room was filled with people who did not look like me."
While she states that she didn't really understand what slavery was until she was a young adult, something made her feel close to home as the poem spoke to her.
But where does one collect ideas to write? Agbonhin considers herself in tune with her emotions and feelings.
"Whenever I'm overtaken by an emotion – whether that be sadness, anger, rage, or happiness – I find that the best way to return to my natural state is to write about it."
Agbonhin says she feels, "when you're a kid - a black kid especially - you see a lot of horrible injustices and you're forced to pay attention to them."
And when you're a child, it's hard to change your environment such as changing racist behaviours. "You can't start a revolution. You can't change policies. You can't even drive!"
Writing let her turn her feelings of being trapped into those of acting on her feelings – with words.
While encountering racism herself, she was inspired to write such poems as 'Liberty', 'Black Muslim Problems', and 'To All the People in My High School who said Something Ignorant to Me" found in her book 'I Never Truly Hated You'. The poems came from personal experiences of racism within her high school, the Muslim community and/or random every day experiences.
During the summer of 2020, following the death of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery George Floyd, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, and Jacob Blake, Agbonhin wrote a poem titled, 'Ode to the Black Boys who Died to Make Hip Hop Happen'.
"(That summer) I was an executive for the Black Student Association at Western University, and was aiding coordination for Western University's participation in the 'Cards for Ahmaud' fundraiser. I was constantly seeing dead Black bodies every time I opened any form of social media and I was constantly being asked to produce poetry for virtual events."
A hectic and emotionally draining time, Agbonhin said she reached a breaking point. Pressures from school and feeling trauma from events that were going on around her was breaking her down. 'Ode to the Black Boys who Died to Make Hip Hop Happen' was created when she was meant to be writing something to connect feminism to Hip Hop. It has been viewed more than 18 thousand times on Instagram.
Her advice for anyone interested in this type of art form?
"…get extremely in tune with their emotions."
"Poets are very good at utilizing the way they feel and manipulating the feelings of others. We can evoke emotions in others, but this requires a person to have a grapple on their own emotions."
Agbonhin also suggests those interested in writing should read and know a lot about the world.