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Six women finding joy through poetry

“Harriet Tubman is a Lesbian,” “Steps to Healing after Therapy” and “Adventures of the Third Limb.” These are the titles of poems written by the Black Ladies Brunch Collective, a group of black women writing about the raw pains and joys of life.

Their ultimate goal of, “lifting up the voices of black women,” led them to UMBC’s Skylight Lounge and to a group of students of every major eager to hear these women’s powerful spoken words.

It all started back in 2014 in Washington, D.C., where six women met for brunch as a support group with the simple goal of being there for each other throughout the many trials of life.

Their relationships blossomed as they realized their shared love for prose, leading them to write and publish an anthology of poems, titled “Not Without Our Laughter: Poems of Humor, Sexuality and Joy,” in April 2017.

Their anthology’s success caught the eye of the UMBC English Department, who invited the collective to come read their poems and bring their words to life for a new audience of students and faculty alike.

Combining common experiences of women, sexuality and mental health with social issues, like domestic and sexual violence, black history, LGBTQ issues and feminist issues from around the world, the collective gave voices to many modern marginalized issues.

However, as the poems tackled these hard to swallow topics, there also came a good amount of humor too, leaving a unique air full of personality after each poem was read aloud.

Halfway through the readings, Saida Agostini took the mic and addressed the audience saying “I love to lie.” After the laughter that ensued, she went on to describe how she had always wanted to rewrite parts of black history’s women as queer, like herself, and bring them to the forefront.

As a result, her poem, “Harriet Tubman is a Lesbian,” gave life to this desire for there to be a different discussion about blackness and queerness as a whole, while also being funny.

Another poet in the collective, Katy Richey wrote “Therapy,” highlighting the importance of mental health and the irony within modern treatments, to which Agostini wrote a poem in response entitled “Steps To Healing” with a more realistic approach and tone.

Many other poets in the collective wrote response poems, an idea which highlights the importance of debate and discussion in the world and to allow a channel of expression for every voice, no matter their race or gender.

After exploring all these ideas and concepts, the panel added one last piece of advice to the audience: “live an engaged and thoughtful life.”

The evening ended with book signings of their anthology, the audience enlightened and refreshed from hearing such strong pairings of voice and prose. Their poetry collection, “Not Without Laughter,” is available now from Mason Jar Press.