Since 2002, I've been writing poems on the topic of human trafficking, sexual slavery, and modern-day slavery. I have performed these poems around the country in hopes of raising awareness about these issues and to urge people to get involved--to actively do something to help these women or address this problem. About four or five years ago, I started asking myself if writing/performing poetry was enough? Can poetry in and of itself truly be a form of social and political activism? And if I accept money for performing poetry about these issues, am I complicit in the process of exploitation, oppression, and slavery of the women and children I write about?
The possibility that I might, indeed, be an oppressor in this process--despite my good intentions--greatly troubled me. Over the past few years, I have had to honestly assess who I am and what I am actually capable of doing to more actively engage in combating trafficking and slavery. For me, the answer was that it is not realistic for me to be in the field trying to help, but as an artist I could find a way to more directly support those who are. So for the past two years, I have been writing these poems with the intent that I would publish them into a book and donate the profits from book sales to an organization dedicated in aiding women and children who are victims/survivors of trafficking and slavery or who are enduring oppression and abuse in other forms. In the end, it may not amount to much, but I want to pledge a commitment to the fight.
The She Book, Volume 1 celebrates the complexities of women's whole-self identities through poems which scrutinize the external forces that seek to control and conquer us as well as affirm the deep-seated spiritual energies within and around us that empower and sustain us.
The poems traverse multiple layers of a female persona's emotional, psychological, and spiritual struggles, interweaving deep-seated insecurities about beauty, sexuality, faith, intelligence, and creativity with the constant truth of our essential strength and fortitude. They further explore a diverse array of personal experiences, political situations, and mythical images which have been used throughout the ages to manipulate and oppress women.
The poems often begin by acknowledging that we come into the world afraid because, from birth, we are told that we are weak. But through the painful journey of skinning the truth from the shallow image of this false reality, the female personae in the poems discover that what other people think of us is NOT more powerful than what we think of ourselves. It was and is always within our own power to fly, to be free, to proclaim self.
Thus, these poems attempt to rewrite/revise those oppressive misconceptions so as to re-present the female "I" as invincible and uncompromising in the face of the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual factions that seek to conquer and dominate us. Some do this through storytelling, complex metaphorical explorations, or hip hop influenced rhyme. Whatever the technique or form, these poems ultimately urge women to grasp the power within us that connects us all and which motions us towards community building and spiritual healing.
One of the most inspirational people in my life was a woman named Brenda McMillan. She was a mother, sister, and friend all-in-one. She taught me what the meaning of friendship is, and she loved me despite all my imperfections, insecurities, mistakes.
At one time in her life, Brenda had been at work on a poetry book which she planned to title She. Not only did she eventually abandon this project, she also gave up writing poetry altogether. To this day, I mourn the loss of her love and desire to share her poetic gifts with the world. I wish she had found her way back to it; in the meantime, all I can hope to do is remember her and document her loving presence.
Brenda passed away on September 10, 2006. I have tried to keep her spirit alive in my poetry and through the work that I do in the community. This poetry book is an on-going memorial for Brenda. All the poems are dedicated to her, and the proceeds from this book will be donated towards a charity or organization working to improve conditions for women and children experiencing oppression and abuse. These charities and organizations may change depending upon where I am performing and for what cause I may be speaking out about. If readers/patrons have any questions about this, please contact me, and I will happily share information about these.
This book is also dedicated to countless other people who have inspired me, supported me, encouraged me, and loved me. These individuals are named at the beginning of each poem.
Finally, this book is dedicated to my mother: Myong Myers; my children: Myong, Victor, and Vanessa; my sisters: Kao, Lisa, Sovannary, Merlin, Theresa, Jenny, and Sham; my poetry family: Alisha, Lindo, Rel, Steve C., and Stephen L.; my brother: Michael; and my poetry partner: Catzie. Special thanks to my children’s father: Tyrone V. McCloud. Thank you all for your patience, understanding, and love.
Much love always,