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 venues, 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 poetry 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.
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.
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,
“What can you create without sun, without water,
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