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Last of a series

Evanston Township High School seniors Angel Cruz, Noam Hasak-Lowy, and Indira Abraham are making the best of the Pandemic’s “new normal.” They’ve stayed plugged into the high school’s remote learning, have goals for the future, have pursued their creative passions, and are grateful for their mentors and peer support along the way

Poetry, Music, and Mentors Motivate Indira Abraham

Before the Pandemic, Indira Abraham performed her poetry at many live venues, including the Chicago Louder Than a Bomb poetry festival. (Submitted photo)

It was in her fifth-grade classroom at Eugene Field Elementary School in Chicago that ETHS senior Indira Abraham was bitten by the poetry bug. She vividly remembers her teacher encouraging creative writing and poetry reading and writing. “I wrote my first poem in Mr. Cousins’ class, and I loved how it felt,” she said. “That’s also where I first heard about “Louder Than a Bomb” [LTAB], the huge poetry festival that started in Chicago and has become a big part of my life.”   

Even during this year of COVID-19, poetry has been one of several important threads running through Indira’s life and sustaining her; others are music and the people who’ve encouraged her and her passions.

Indira thinks of “Louder Than a Bomb” – all the people on her poetry team and those she met at poetry workshops, in tournaments, and at poetry slams – as her “community.”  When her family moved to Evanston, Indira’s settling-in was comfortable because her LTAB interest followed her. 

“I was so lucky to have Mr. Beam as my eighth-grade teacher and writing and performing coach. I took workshops and tried out for LTAB, and I made the team!” More support and affirmation came from Ms. Quinn, her eighth-grade drama teacher, who paved the way for her to perform her poetry at an Authors in the Schools benefit. 

Indira was inspired by watching the “Louder Than a Bomb” documentary film and began taking advantage of many of the opportunities a young poet could access to grow as a writer and performer. One stimulating experience was participating in the “Poetry and Poetics program,” a part of Northwestern University’s collaboration with Y.O.U. that brought poetry-in-the-schools initiative to interested ETHS students. Talented NU graduate students worked together with the high school students to create poetry, and Indira acknowledges she was inspired by them.

“I remember a specific day that we had a workshop. I wrote a poem and it was a poem outside of my usual comfort zone. I shared it with the room of people, and Em Wilder, one of the workshop leaders from Y.O.U., told me it was really a good poem.“ That was another mentoring experience that Indira realizes opened her up and has given her encouragement to be authentically herself. A powerful and emotional poem entitled “Ain’t We Women” that Indira recently wrote was inspired by a famous speech that abolitionist and orator Sojourner Truth made in 1851 at the Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio.

She also credits a teacher at ETHS.  “I can honestly say that the main reason I’ve grown in skill and confidence is because of my sophomore LTAB coach and English teacher, Ms. Walker. She’s been a great mentor and teacher, and I loved participating on the LTAB team from freshman through junior years.” She was looking forward to attending and participating in this spring’s LTAB festival and is disappointed it’s been put on hold.

When the COVID quarantine happened, Indira’s interests segued into creating her own projects. She often makes music, sometimes with her younger sister, Makeda. They use computer-generated instrumental sounds, a keyboard, and drum pads – melody and lyrics last.  “I incorporate my poetry into music, and usually the songs I create tell a story.” Through a recent Y.O.U. program she was given a stipend and support to produce and release a mini album of five songs.  She also released a single and feels gratified that her Facebook page now has 7,000 followers. 

While music and poetry still sustain her, she’s expanding her horizons to join Y.O.U.’s Makerspace Base Camp. It melds science, technology, and art while using photography, videography, and lasers. Who knows, maybe she’ll find a way to combine what she learns there with poetry, music, and the social work degree she is aiming for in the future. She said, “I ultimately want to be a social worker because I care about mental health.  I think my community needs healing.” 

Ain’t We Women

By Indira Abraham

Light through dark brown

Golden toned under

Crowned with curls coils kinks

Down up

 Braided

Knotted upside down

Skin cocoa

Clean sweet smell

Like shea butter

Baked or fresh faced

Beauty

Sensual love of all beings and self

Soothing soul

Lord

See the goddess energy

See the melanated power

But yet you have the audacity

To tell such a ruler

Such a sunny moonlit

Energy

Embodying the old roots

Rejection of Eve misunderstood

Foundation of Lilith

You doing to much?

Why you talk so damn loud?

What you so angry for?

Well what do you want us to do

When you tell us we have to carry the oceans

And stop the Sun from falling

You want us to hold your whole world

Let alone our own

What do you want us to do?

You want us to sit prim and pretty

Dream girls style 

Before Deena found the dream

What do you want us to do?

You want us to act like yo Mama?

You want us to rock yo trauma away

You want us to absorb your pain like empaths

So when you run you run with free feet

But we drag the heaviness so we cannot catch up

And you leave us in the dust

Leave us shackled

Sunken into the desert

Drowning in the sands of muddled minds

Attacking each other at the shrines of your adversity

Do yall want us to be yo damn Mammy’s?

Do yall hope for us to be fictional stereotypes?

Do yall want us to be statues

To symbolize the pains of many 

But to stand as though a peculiar exhibit for your historical interest?

Do yall want 

us to

be women?

Ain’t we women?

Ain’t we been said we women?

Ain’t we human?

Been saying that in our art and words since 1851 and bodies since forever?

It is not a matter of sojourning for truth

For question should have been answered the minute it was asked

But have you ever responded to our cries?