Diasporic Diction event to showcase powerful poetry

From Voodoo folklore to rhythm and blues musicians, New Orleans’ rich African heritage has helped shape the city into a cultural hotspot and international tourist destination. African American culture has had a strong influence on American culture, not only through visual art and music, but also through literature. The Ashé Cultural Arts Center hopes to showcase African diasporic literature through Diasporic Diction, an open mic on Feb. 5 featuring poets Loyce Gayo and Ayokunle Falomo.

Loyce Gayo is a slam poet, teaching artist, singer and activist currently living in Houston, Texas. She was born and raised in Tanzania, and later studied African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Gayo’s poetry has been influenced by her experience as a foreigner in the United States and often tackles controversial subjects. Through her work, she hopes to voice the experiences and concerns of dispersed and otherwise marginalized people.

Her best-known poem, entitled “How We Forget,” is an emotionally charged slam poem that examines the social constructs, injustice and complacency that she believes hinder individuals in American society.

“We forgot crowns do nothing or kings/ but put weight on their heads/ (and a target not their backs)/ …We forgot burning cities,/ We forgot cities are still burning/ We forgot colors are seasonal,/ And that this skin will fade too…” Gayo writes.

Nigerian poet Ayokunle Falomo is also currently living in San Antonio. He is a graduate student at Sam Houston State University, pursuing a Specialist Degree in School Psychology. Falamo has written many free verse poems, using evocative images and metaphors to attempt to uncover the relational, psychological and spiritual attributes that make us human.

Community members interested in meeting Gayo and Falomo and hearing their work are welcome to attend Diasporic Diction, presented by Slam New Orleans, 2012 and 2013 National Poetry Slam champions. The Noirlinians, a New Orleans-based fashion blog, are presenting the event.

The event costs $10 to attend and will take place from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Feb. 5  at the Ashé in Central City New Orleans. Ashé originated in 1993 as a moving visual and performing arts installation named “Efforts of Grace,” which served as a creative outlet for African American artists and their culture in New Orleans. In 1998, the Ashé center was established in Central City, historically a predominantly black district, and soon became a cultural center for the community. The organization continues to showcase African American artwork and sponsor local events.

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