When Sisters Speak is the largest and longest running annual spoken word concert of Black, female poets in North America, and it’s not hard to understand why. In its 14th year, the event, hosted and produced by Dwayne Morgan, featured six inspiring poets: Raissa Simone, El Jones, Erika Gault, Ify Chiwetelu, Britta Badour and Truth Is.

Each performer brought to the stage her own unique personality, style and heart to heart poems. The themes for each poet varied throughout the night, from personal grievances with stereotypes to female empowerment. For the audience members listening, when a line struck a chord they snapped, laughed or cried.

“In sixth grade I tried to change my name to Shaniqua / With 12 years of wisdom I thought that this would meet all the expectations / It would roll easily off of tongues / And I could hide deep inside well born stereotypes.” – Ify

Chiwetelu, a Nigerian-born, Calgary-raised artist, captured the night with her bright sense of humour. She engaged the audience, talking and laughing with them as if everyone in the room had been a long-time friend.

The first poem she presented, she talked about how she came to appreciate her culturally based name “Ify” despite what other people thought. In her poem she said, “In sixth grade I tried to change my name to Shaniqua / With 12 years of wisdom I thought that this would meet all the expectations / It would roll easily off of tongues / And I could hide deep inside well born stereotypes.”

For the audience, many snapped and nodded in agreement. Judging by the standing ovation, the poem allowed people to realize they don’t need to compromise their identity to be “Canadian”.

For spoken word fans, this powerful and motivating event is an annual must.

Words By. Kiah Welsh + Photos By. Candace Nyaomi