Dami, also known as ‘Damz’, is a 21-year-old poet from Birmingham – she never knew heartbreak would set off a lifetime of creative passion.
The smell of urine and disinfectant was nauseating as the lights flickered on and off. I wondered how I had found myself here, and if I was the mug of the year. How had I not seen this coming? Had I been blind to the fact that I was no longer wanted?
“Could Barry please come to the Customer Service Desk?” – the intercom blared.
I wanted to be Barry, Harry – anyone else but me, so I could get up and leave. I found myself incapable of doing that.
I stared at my broken reflection in the mirror – snot dripping down my face. The salt in my mouth was as overbearing as the murmurs of ‘is she okay?,’ coming from the women outside.
I was suddenly conscious that my behind was sitting on a public toilet. I hadn’t even laid tissue down. What a time to be alive.
I was 15 and my boyfriend had just broken up with me – he didn’t even wait five minutes before moving on. Within five minutes he changed his display picture from one of us, to one of him and his new girl on Black Berry Messenger. You thought I was being dramatic.
However, they do say pain is a way to birth creativity within oneself. When I got home that day, I wrote my first poem.
Looking back, I don’t remember the ‘heartache’ so much, but I do remember an awareness that I could this low point as a platform for my pain. Back then, I created art because of my emotions. I had to ‘feel’ in order to be moved to write. If I had a muse – I had a muse, if not, then I didn’t write. This is why I was inconsistent – I used to be too dependent upon my environment.
I started to raise my voice through open mic performances, when I was at university in Sheffield studying for my MSc in International Social Change and Policy. My art is very personal to me, so sharing it was a massive step.
I entered competitions and this taught me how to write for a purpose. Over time, it also changed my perspective on where I write from – I will no longer write about things I am not over. I have in the past and I don’t believe it helps me heal. Poets have this weird thing where they write down their pain and close the book – but, my book is open, because healing is constant.
Now I have realised that sometimes, people need to hear your pain, and see you smile afterwards. This is especially important as a black woman, because the world needs to know there is not just one narrative relating to black women. We are diverse.
It can be so so so hard, because there are so many spaces where I feel marginalised and squashed. But, I speak where I can speak, until I can speak everywhere.
My main belief is that the creative arts need to be decolonised – no-one should feel left out, or not good enough, and it should not be dominated by white voices. In order for this to happen, we must realise just how important all of our voices are. BAME voices need to be valued, not just because they are from different backgrounds, but because they are people.
In a world where the ‘non-mainstream’ are constantly silenced you must know that your art is valid, but first and foremost, you have to value it yourself.