Empowerment through poetry
Spoken word poet tackles prejudice through art
Published: Thursday, September 5, 2013
Updated: Thursday, September 5, 2013 12:09
Since her first performance, Obeid has gone on to perform at coffee shops and open mic nights in Tampa and St. Petersburg.
“That’s how it started,” she said. “I only did performances very sporadically after that like every four to six months. It was only until recently that I’ve really started producing and performing a lot.”
Last year, Obeid was selected to perform in a spoken word competition at the Fresh Fruits Art Festival in New York, where she won the Audience Award for Best Spoken Word Artists.
“The audience was so amazing,” she said. “The energy was just ... You could just feel it — it was relentless. It was as if they were saying ‘We will make a good poet out of you!’ It just felt so right. Like, in this moment, this is where the universe intended for me to be.”
R. Mona Leza, an author and poet living in St. Petersburg, hosts an open mic night at Genaro Coffe, where Obeid has performed on multiple occasions. Leza said Obeid’s performances at her open mic nights have had a profound impact on her audience and Leza still gets questions about her weeks later.
“There was everything from tears to laughter to heads bobbing in acknowledgement,” Leza said. “It was a very diverse audience and the way she affected different people was very evident. People were standing and applauding and whistling — she was very well-received. It kind of made me realize the potential she has to reach people.”
Leza said it is Obeid’s energy and presence on stage that sets her apart from other poets in the area.
“I’ve been doing spoken word in this area for about seven years now and I’ve heard all different kinds of poets with all different kind of poetry,” Leza said. “There are occasionally those poets that come along that just have such an incredible and commanding presence that you can’t help but stop and listen.”
Leza said she hopes that as Obeid progresses through her work, she realizes her own potential to inspire and empower those who need it the most.
“I feel that if she can embrace her work and know that she has such a powerful message to share that she will not only be more prolific in her writing going forward, but that she will also be more visible in performing it.”
“I stand in the dark of the sunrise lit by a cigarette, soaking in the sadness, calculating the madness, knowing through routine ripping through the near three decade long playbook called life, that it’s spell bound with childhood ever endings and earmarked with adult histories of question and query.”
Spoken word performance and writing gave Obeid the strength to come out publicly without fear, she said.
“When you come out, you have to come out with confidence,” she said. “Not in confidence, with confidence. You have to say ‘Yes. I am gay. What is it that you do not understand?’ They have to know that I have the answers and I am not looking at you for them. I don’t need you to give me affirmation of my identity or your approval.”
Her art form, she said, is cathartic.
“Spoken word is my therapy,” she said. “Spoken word is a genre, but there is just something to that performance element of it which allows you to share yourself with other people without having to lie down on a couch. You share with everybody, and some things they don’t get and some things they totally get.”