Dean Atta’s poetry strikes a chord at Black History Month event

On Monday 14 October pupils were treated to a lunchtime poetry and verse recital by Dean Atta, a British poet of Greek Cypriot and Caribbean descent. He has been listed by The Independent newspaper as one of the 100 most influential LGBT people in the United Kingdom and writes poetry on topics such as questions of identity and social justice.

Dean read several poems (one of which is below) and extracts from his new book, The Black Flamingo, before answering some excellent questions from sixth formers, Junova and Ophelie, including his process for writing poetry and his experience of the intersectionality of being black and gay. They asked about what Black History Month means to him and listened with interest as he explained his perspective of being able to highlight the progress that has been made in society but to remember that it is not only about figures in the past, that we are making history. He noted some icons of the civil rights movement and how we can trace history through politics, music, education and other areas through to the present day when we must carry the torch. His advice to young black people growing up in today’s climate is to be yourself and not hide parts of who you are. Be proud and be a good role model, especially to those younger than you. Part of this can be to challenge those around you who say things that you find uncomfortable – they may not realise and those who bother to take the time to look into what you have flagged are the ones who are worth spending time with.

Truly inspiring insight into the life of Dean. His performance truly brought the book life and I will definitely be purchasing.

-Junova

It was an enlightening experience and linked well to sociology as he spoke of his experiences with racism, homophobia and other personal struggles that he has faced.

-Florrie

Dean Atta’s performance of his poetry was mesmerising and really bought his book ‘The Black Flamingo’ to life. It was extremely interesting to hear him touch on topics such as identity and family.

– Kaliyah

It was a very interesting lunchtime session and we would like to thank Dean for joining us and Sydenham Arts for making his visit possible.

Sydenham Arts is a registered charity providing arts activities and events all year round from its permanent home and performance space at the Sydenham Centre. It is committed to providing a platform for emerging, local artists as well as bring in high quality, established artists to the area. Sydenham Arts relies on support to deliver an innovative array of artistic activities for the whole community and to achieve its charitable aims ‘to provide, promote and advance the Arts for the benefit of the public, in particular people who live, work and are educated in Sydenham and surrounding areas’. Times are tough – sadly its core funding from Lewisham Borough Council has been cut. To donate and support Sydenham Arts click here.

I Come From

I come from shepherd’s pie and Sunday roast
Jerk chicken and stuffed vine leaves
I come from travelling through my taste buds but loving where I live

I come from a home that some would call broken
I come from D.I.Y. that never got done
I come from waiting by the phone for him to call

I come from waving the white flag to loneliness
I come from the rainbow flag and the union jack
I come from a British passport and an ever-ready suitcase

I come from jet fuel and fresh coconut water
I come from crossing oceans to find myself
I come from deep issues and shallow solutions

I come from a limited vocabulary but an unrestricted imagination
I come from a decent education and a marvellous mother
I come from being given permission to dream but choosing to wake up instead

I come from wherever I lay my head
I come from unanswered questions and unread books
Unnoticed effort and undelivered apologies and thanks

I come from who I trust and who I have left
I come from last year and last year and I don’t notice how I’ve changed
I come from looking in the mirror and looking online to find myself

I come from stories, myths, legends and folk tales
I come from lullabies and pop songs, Hip Hop and poetry
I come from griots, grandmothers and her-story tellers

I come from published words and strangers’ smiles
I come from my own pen but I see people torn apart like paper
Each a story or poem that never made it into a book.