Staceyann Chin’s poetry erupts the revolution and disrupts the literary world.
In fact, if you read or listen to her poetry, her words are like shrapnel projectiles. Because the potency of her words scatters with fragments of political rebellion.
When Chin takes the stage to perform, the revolution is televised. Here’s an excerpt from one of her most formidable poems titled If Only Out of Vanity:
I want to write the poem
that The New York Times cannot print
because it might start some kind of black or lesbian
or even a white revolution
The Painstaking Childhood And The Catalyst To Redefine Herself
Born in Jamaica, half-Black, and half-Chinese in a world that rejected her from the onset. Chin used poetry to command her presence, to question systems of oppression and to heal.
“[My past] very clearly and very brutally affects who I am. In a very good way,” Chin says matter-of-factly. “It’s made me ask myself very hard questions, and it’s made me be comfortable with who I am on a level that maybe people aren’t.”
Chin’s deaf and illiterate grandmother raised her and her brother when both of her parents abandoned them.
But things changed (and not for the better) when her mother returned to reclaim her and her brother at the age of 9.
She recalls living in a world of chaos and dysfunction, bouncing between homes of unfamiliar relatives. During that time, she met her father for the first time (who never acknowledged her).
And as a teenager, Chin recalls almost being gang-raped by 12 boys. She responds to this incident by saying, “I am not as angry about that incident as I am about the phenomenon of that kind of violence.”
The Unstoppable Activist
Chin fled Jamaica when she realized she was a lesbian. She feared for her life and the rampant gay bashing that is known to occur there.
Exploding into the spoken word scene when she relocated to New York, she created a name for herself when she performed (and co-wrote) in the Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam, which is where I first witnessed this wordsmith perform in the early 2000s in Boston, MA.
Chin spent a lot of time performing and facilitating poetry workshops at the infamous Nuyorican Poets Cafe and has won a multitude of local and national poetry slam titles.
She’s written and performed in one-woman shows such as Border/Clash which is an autobiographical story documenting her upbringing in Jamaica, political critiques and the discovery of her sexuality.
Chin then created and starred in another one-woman show called Motherstruck. This show depicted her journey as a single mother through in-vitro-fertilization.
It is a show that is part comical but displays the profound journey of the non-traditional approach to motherhood.
Chin has also written a memoir called The Other Side of Paradise. Featured in over 21 publications such as The New York Times and The Washington Post; she’s a literary powerhouse.
Since 1998, Chin has used her platform to fight oppression as a political activist, more importantly, she does not flinch when the truth is simmering to be exposed.
She is raw and the epitome of an unapologetic spokesperson for marginalized people.
In 2015, Chin was named by Equality Forum as the leading icons LGBTQ History Month.
“It’s a very delicate conversation, the conversation that America is having around race and gender right now in the political campaign. Nobody can critique Obama because everything sounds like racism, and nobody can talk about Hillary because everything sounds like they’re being sexist. So, it’s a weird situation. When the mainstream provides space for a kind of marginalized voice, that voice becomes a voice that we are inclined to protect rather than critique. And sometimes that is problematic.”
The Undeniable Truth For Change
Chin’s presence is what society continually needs. Often, systems of oppression want to sweep the problem and even in some cases the solutions under the rug. And Chin isn’t having it.
“I think now what I work hard to do is to articulate the identities that are still under the attack of racism and sexism…I’m just plotting along and trying to do my part in the process of changing the world and making it better.”
Chin has no plans of slowing down. She is due to be the keynote speaker for the Society for the Study of American Women Writers this year.
This Women’s Month we thank Staceyann Chin for her relentless courage to speak her truths and lift others in this unyielding battle of systematic oppression.