Written by: Kiana Maria
Poetry is a lost art form. However, in recent years it has had a comeback. With poets like Rupi Kaur, Rudy Francisco, Sarah Kay, Phil Kaye, and so many more, poetry has brought itself back to life. One teenage poet who is adding a flame to the poetic fire is 15-year old Kyeila-Keziah. She is a poet and activist from New Jersey. She uses her voice to talk about subjects that not many people tend to talk about. She has used her gift as a way to talk about the misunderstanding and hurt that the black community feels. Within the 50 poems that Kyeila has written, she has certainly spoken her truth!
Kyeila’s poetry is truly art - not necessarily like Pablo Picasso, but more like Pablo Neruda. When asked about how her love for poetry began, she shared with us that “growing up listening to old school hip hop and R&B gave me a real love for lyrics. When I was in seventh grade my English teacher gave us a project where we had to make original poems. He told me, ‘Wow, you really impressed me with your work. Have you considered writing for yourself?’ I never had until that day. Ever since that day, I fell in love with everything poetry related.” Within this period, she has written about 50 poems and has since performed at her high school’s annual poetry production called Word Up annually. She has written about her ups and downs of life from the perspective of a woman in this day and age who is a part of the black community.
Change does not start until there is a conversation. Gen Z has contributed more to the conversation of how the black community has received ignorance and injustice from police and the country they live in for hundreds of years and how it needs to stop. When asked about her favorite poem she has ever written, entitled “Talking Animals and All the Magic In the World,” she mentioned what it was about and how it contributed to that conversation. “[It] talks about being a young black female in today’s society. [...] We don’t talk about it a lot and I want to open up that conversation. I am proud of myself for being able to write it and get out a lot of the feelings that I have suppressed.” Being a black woman in this country holds its hardships, however, it is truly inspiring to see a Gen Z black female contribute to this world with an astounding voice and charisma.
Even though Gen Z has shown support and its enthusiasm for fighting against racial prejudice, there are a few who choose to be silent. When asked what she would say to her friends of non-color who aren’t using their platforms, she stated, “Don’t be afraid. I know a lot of people feel as though they don’t have a place to be a part of these conversations but it's important that they do so. Strength comes in numbers and we need all the support that we can get. We are in a fight for this country’s integrity. All of this hatred, and ignorance needs to stop at the end of the day. Silence as it may speak, is sometimes not loud enough…”
One poem of hers that displays frustration of the black community is the way people mispronounce foreign names. In a poem entitled, Do Not Pronounce My Name, Kyeila talks about how people have taken her name and mispronounced it throughout the years even though they were told the correct way. She explains, “It goes way deeper than names for me. Names are someone’s identity given to them by birth. It’s hard to see people walking around and not even try to just recall their story.” … “This name is something that someone holds for the rest of their lives, even if they change it. You can’t change the fact that someone looked at you at birth and said, ‘yeah, this is you.’ It is important to me that you learn someone’s story. When you learn it, at least try your best to understand it.” The way she sees names as a gateway for expression and identity is truly insightful.
Kyeila-Keziah is a poetic force to be reckoned with. She uses her voice as a bridge for others, and that is what we need more of in this world. Gen Z artists like her have shown so many people how strong the power of empathy can be. To walk in someone’s shoes is an art form that is so in tune with poetry. With her words and strength on how her poetic journey can teach and help others is something more people need to embody. In the future, Kyeila-Keziah would like to be a psychologist to work with veterans; however, she will never forget her poetic roots, and will continue to write in her future.