Q&A With Shaliyah Keoua
The Above video is the featured poem in The Ephemera Series Vol. 1
Shaliyah Keoua Bio:
Shaliyah Keoua spent her early childhood in Pointe-Noire, Republic of Congo. She later moved to Montreal, Québec, Canada when she was eleven with her family. When she moved to Montreal, her teachers encouraged her to write poetry as a means of expressing herself. Shaliyah had a hard time adjusting to the Canadian lifestyle, so she used poetry as a way to vent her frustration. During her time as a young adult, she lived in several countries, including the United States, Jamaica, Belize, England, Spain, Australia, Nigeria, and South Africa. During her time in these countries, she used her poetry to teach kids English, French, and Spanish.
Shaliyah Keoua Q&A:
Lukumi: What inspired your poem?
Shaliyah Keoua: Frustration inspired my poem. I was tired of hearing about black people being mistreated worldwide. Over the past few years, the media has flooded our eyes with the mistreatment of blacks. Going back to the horrendous killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in the United States, Sars in Nigeria, black people being kicked out of their homes in China during the start of the pandemic, and black people being denied the right to flee Ukraine during a time of war. Those are some of the things that inspired my poem.
Lukumi: In your bio, it states that you've lived in Nigeria before. Do you have any direct dealings with Sars or any mistreatment that may have come from their government?
Shaliyah Keoua: There's a lot of corruption not just in Nigeria but in a lot of numerous African countries and worldwide. I have witnessed so much corruption in my life that it makes me sick to my stomach.
Lukumi: What do you think needs to happen to eliminate corruption?
Shaliyah Keoua: Unity, the people need to unify and stop fighting over land rights, tribal and cultural differences. We are fighting a war against corruption, and black people are losing as a whole worldwide.
Lukumi: Your bio also states that you used poetry as a method to express yourself when you first moved to Canada, can you elaborate more on that?
Shaliyah Keoua: I first moved to Montreal, Québec, Canada when I was eleven years old. It was a complete shock I had never been around that many white people in my life. Their culture was different from mine, and it took time for me to adjust. So poetry helped me adjust to my new surroundings.
Lukumi: What was the biggest shock you felt when you began going to school in Montreal?
Shaliyah Keoua: The biggest shock was being the only black person in class and sometimes the only black person in the entire school. My classmates or teachers did not make me feel comfortable. I changed schools several times and had to go through a period of homeschooling until my parents found the right area for us to live in. Early on, I dealt with bullying and racism. Eventually, it got better, and I found a school where there were more black students and some black teachers. This is the time when I was introduced to poetry and encouraged to write as a way to express myself.
Lukumi: In your bio, you mention that you used poetry to teach children different languages. Can you elaborate more on that?
Shaliyah Keoua: Growing up, I mainly spoke French, Swahili, and Kituba (Kikongo). I later learned English when I arrived in Montreal, and when I lived in the United States, I would learn Spanish. I worked as an educator in every country I lived in. Many of the schools that I worked at were fairly poor and, oftentimes, did not have a curriculum set in place to teach students a different language as an elective. So I began to incorporate a foreign language into my lesson planning. As years went by, I began traveling to some of the poorest places in the world to teach children how to read, write poetry, and speak different languages.
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Lukumi Arlota – Contributing Writer
Lukumi Arlota is a mental health advocate, black empowerment activist, public speaker, and business owner.