Spoken word poetry has had varying levels of mainstream popularity over the past fifteen years. If you were like me, in the early 2000s, you stayed up anxiously on Friday nights to watch Mos Def host a new episode of Def Poetry Jam on HBO. HBO’s showcase of performance poetry was so successful that it led to Def Poetry on Broadway and created legitimate stars of spoken word poets.
Since then, performance poetry has continued to be an important art form for people who have something to say, want to say it beautifully, and want to ensure others hear them. There are multiple national and international poetry slam competitions all around the world, consistently drawing in audiences and new writer-performers of all ages and backgrounds.
With its popularity, I think it is easy for people to forget the historical roots of the spoken word and its importance within Black communities and other communities of color. Whether or not a poem is specifically centered around social justice themes or political activism, the simple act of a person sharing their stories and lived experiences makes it empowering and powerful.
And as Black Women, we need to tell our own stories just as much as anyone.
Sonya is a former National and International poetry slam champion from the Bay Area. She is the author of two books, including The Body is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love (Berrett-Koehler Feb 2018), educator and thought leader who has enlightened and inspired organizations, audiences, and individuals from board rooms to prisons, universities to homeless shelters, elementary schools to some of the biggest stages in the world.
Sonya’s work has been seen, heard, and read on HBO, BET, MTV, TV One, NPR, PBS, CNN, Oxygen Network, The New York Times, New York Magazine, MSNBC.com, Today.com, Huffington Post, USA Today, Vogue Australia, Shape.com, Ms. Magazine and many more. She is a regular collaborator and artist with organizations such as Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Advocates for Youth 1in3 Campaign, Association for Size Diversity and Health, Binge Eating Disorders Association (BEDA), Greater than AIDS Campaign, Yerba Buena Cultural Art Center, and numerous others.
In 2011, Sonya founded The Body is Not An Apology, as an online community to cultivate radical self-love and body empowerment. TBINAA quickly became a movement and leading framework for the budding body positivity movement. In 2015, The Body is Not an Apology developed a digital magazine, education, and community building platform to connect global issues of radical self-love and intersectional social justice. Today, TBINAA is a digital media enterprise reaching nearly 1 million people per month from over 140 countries.
Sonya continues to tour globally sharing lectures, workshops and performances focused on radical self-love, social justice, and personal and global transformation. Her work is full of honesty and vulnerability, while also exuding confidence and empowerment. When she performs, her words and her presence often explode off of the stage.