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AGNES UGOJI, 19

Born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, Agnes Ugoji is a poet, activist and community organizer who lives in Boston, Massachusetts. At the age of 16, she was named one of Boston's 150 Women of Influence and Massachusetts’s first Individual Slam champion, placing first in the state. Ugoji ranked first in Massachusetts last year with her team from 826 Boston, a literary arts and tutoring center, and second in the world at Brave New Voices International Poetry Competition with her team from MassLEAP.

When Ugoji isn't performing, she can be found with her nose in a book in Dartmouth College's library or in the audience of local art places, watching and listening to youth production and performances. In 2019, she decided to focus on academic writing and creative writing rather than competition-oriented works. Her recent poem examines queer identities in Africa and her relationship with her mother. Ahiazu, her family’s small village in Nigeria, continues to uphold deep-seated traditions of patriarchal and hyper-masculine social standards. Ugoji’s process allows her to grow more comfortable with her identity and delve into her interest of implementing a female-centered education system that empowers young women through workshops and lessons in feminism, sexual education, and art. Ugoji ultimately aims to use her platform as an educated, immigrant black woman to spread health equity, self-love, self-care, and to empower other youth.

Ugoji is a sophomore at Dartmouth College studying Biology, Global Health and French. She has been published in the Boston Globe and the Improper Bostonian.

 

Oshun

by Temitope Sholola and Agnes Ugoji

In the beginning

Oshun, Goddess of the sun and sweetwater

was tasked to sculpt the earth,

to replenish the barren soil with her sweet water.

The men,

Who saw her feminine energy as a weak force

laughed at her,

So Oshun took her water to the moon

And watched as the land dried

and thirsted for her return

When they asked her to come back

She forced the men to kiss her feet,

Said,

“What can you create without sun, without water,

Without women”

Once, a man spat on my face

So I crucified him with his own tongue

And I cursed him with a thirst that followed his children for generations

Didn’t he know

Our sweet waters will fall sour in an ungrateful mans throat?

Once, a man thought he could beat me into submission

Thought my mother's spirit only colored my skin

So I stared him down during every beating

My sunshine brought a drought across his hands

He burnt his fists on my skin

I set his palms on fire

When a woman is the moisture in your mouth

When she is the sun that moves your solar system

Who are you to run from what made you?

Who are you to run from who you are?

When you treat a woman like a war zone,

Her blood won’t replenish the land

When your country is built on the oppression of women,

Don’t act like this feminine energy didn’t birth a nation

Like this womanhood doesn’t resonate from the ground you tried to bury us in

Leave it to man to beg

when he’s thirsty

Once, a man tried to corner me in a room

So I made his lungs collapse

make it hard for him to breathe

A man said my confidence made him nervous,

So I conjured a tsunami of blades in his stomach,

A man thinks he can do anything,

Says he can walk on water,

says he can walk on me

So I wrapped him in my waves and pulled him with the tide

And crushed him with water pressure

In a different tale, they say

a man so feared loneliness

that he tore out his own rib to keep him company,

that a woman was carved from his sacrifice

That she is the gaping hole in his side

But man has been known to be a fragile being

That god broke man

to make a woman,

so man breaks women

to make himself.

Man thought his ribs could cage us

As if he didn’t grow from the garden we planted

He calls himself our son

as if he doesn’t revolve around our waists.

Man claims he rules the seas,

as if we didn’t birth children in the oceans

he tried to drown us in