As the Director of the AGYA Girls Program, I transferred my love of spoken word poetry to the youth of Uganda that I came to teach and empower. I quickly found that the teenage girls who become mute in front of a crowd of more than 3 people, have something significant to say and they have used poetry as the avenue to share their thoughts with the world.
After several writing sessions where the girls learned basic rhyme patterns and skills to perfect the flow of their poetry, the poetry class decided to take their art form to a new level by hosting weekly Poetry Exhibitions, which give the girls an opportunity to perform their poems in front of AGYA youth and the community, at large.
ABOVE: AGYA Girls Participant, 14 year old Shamim Naluyima, performs her poem "Tears Of A Woman"
So far, AGYA has hosted 3 poetry exhibitions which are free and open to the public, and more than 20 girls have overcome their fear of public speaking to take the stage and recite their poems from memory (I forbid any of her students to read from their notebooks). At every session, AGYA provides freshly squeezed mango juice to all of the poets and attendees as a special treat. After each exhibition, the audience is invited to share feedback that will help the girls become better performers.
ABOVE: The audience enjoys fresh fruit between performances.
BELOW: The audience relaxes in between performances.
Although I have served as the leader of the poetry class, the lessons will not stop after I leave Uganda. Classes and weekly exhibitions will continue under the tutelage of standout poetry student Happy Namutebi.
The girls have also been working diligently to finalize their poems which will be published in the 1st edition of a book of poetry and short stories. Featuring the poetry and short stories of 12 dynamic girls, the revenue from the books will be used to pay school fees for the young poets who have worked so hard to become better writers and performers. As a sneak peek, here are two amazing poems written by AGYA students Shamirah Naiga and Sarah Mulekatete.
The Butchery by Shamirah Naiga (16 years old)
Why set it next to my home?
Moreover, I am a vegetarian
Blood smells so bad
Especially in the mornings
City Council, come to my rescue
I do not like the sight
Of fresh meat or blood
It reminds me of a recent accident
The local chief defends
“The butchery is important,” he says
“it employs residents”
However, I do not benefit at all
The Love of Mom by Sarah Mulekatete (18 years old)
Her name is like a sweet flower
Her laughter is like music
That comes from mysterious power
Always a smile on her face
Her motherly and tender hands have nurtured me
During my kid days, she would teach me to sing
Teach me to pray, to love, and give
Oh mom, you are a winter
For I will one day play to shame role
But mom, will you be there?
The love you give me will never die
An angel disguised as a mother
Teaching me only the right way
Many have tried to break her
But nothing can shake her
The politician of good virtues, my sweet mom
But reach unto the sky
She brought love into my heart
And showed me how to give
The joy is bound in the echoes of her laughter
God knew she had to be my mom
Now that I know what loving is
I will teach others too