Mary Black impulsively wrote, recorded and publicly posted her first personal poem, Quiet in October 2015. She never expected it would be as popular as it got.
“It was written like a rant,” Black, an Ojibwe actress, says. “It was the first poem that wasn’t written as a character telling someone else’s story.”
The video currently has more than 130,000 views on Facebook.
It is about the struggles indigenous women face and how they need to stop being quiet about it.
“I didn’t really know what to expect because I was being so open and so honest and so out there,” Black says.
Spoken Word/Slam Poetry "QUIET" by Mary BlackOn being a Silent Indigenous woman in Canada and the struggles our First Nations communities face.Posted by Mary Black on Monday, October 12, 2015
While there have been negative reactions from people who she says are not able to face the reality of the situation, the overall response has been positive.
“People are breaking their own silence because of it,” Black says. “That’s the most amazing part of this experience.”
She’s seen other people who have never told their stories before talking publicly about their own trauma, including sexual abuse and growing up in care.
“Using our voices in something that is vital to our healing,” Black says. “We’ve carried that shame and that guilt. It’s not ours to carry. It’s time to move forward.”
Since posting the video, Black says she has reworked the poem a bit.
She says it’s now twice the length, including parts about history, indigenous leaders and finding the warrior within oneself.
It’s a more positive piece now, Black says. So far, the new version has not been performed for an audience.
Black says she’s scheduled several performances in February and March, including at Sarasvàti Productions’ International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues: Stolen Sisters on March 12.
Hope McIntyre, artistic director of Sarasvàti, says this is the 12th year the theatre company has held the event in celebration of International Women’s Week.
The decision to focus on stolen sisters for this year’s celebration came from a realization that there were many stories to tell about gender-based violence, McIntyre says.
“It’s a way of exploring the issues that are out there and continuing a dialogue that needs to happen,” McIntyre says.
With so much going on in the media surrounding the topic, it seemed like a good year to take it on.
“Because of the nature of the theme, we decided that we wanted people to be telling their own stories,” McIntyre says.
That is why Sarasvàti decided Brown’s poem would be a perfect addition to the line-up.
“It’s going to be a really entertaining and impactful evening, for the art of it and that it will be inspiring and eye-opening,” McIntyre says.
The lobby of the University of Winnipeg’s Asper Centre for Theatre and Film, where the event will take place, will have interactive art displays, including something from the Red Ribbon campaign and a quilt from the We Care campaign.
McIntyre says it’s a chance for the audience to take a step towards actually creating change.
Published in Volume 70, Number 20 of The Uniter (February 18, 2016)