Agnes Ugoji , 18
Born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, Agnes Ugoji is a poet, activist and community organizer. 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 this 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 organizing youth open mics and writing workshops with with leaders from Boston's Youth Spoken Word or dissecting brains at Boston University for the Boston Public Health commission. This year, she has decided to focus on writing for herself rather than competition-oriented works. Her recent poem examines queer identities in Africa and her relationship with her mother. 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. Lagos, her family’s small village in Nigeria, continues to uphold deep-seated traditions of patriarchal and hyper-masculine social standards. Ultimately she aims to use her platform as an educated, immigrant black woman to spread health equity, self-love, self-care, and empower other youth.
Ugoji will start her freshman year at Dartmouth College in the fall. She has been published in the Boston Globe and the Improper Bostonian.
by Agnes Ugoji
After performing a poem at my high school, an English teacher tells me my writing was too angry for his liking, saying that change is the product of peaceful revolution, yada yada yada, something about MLK.
And once again, a white man tries to undermine the power of my poetry, like my performance leaves a bitter taste in his mouth, like my ego is too big for him to swallow, like my woman clumps in the back of his throat, and my blackness stains the insides of his mouth; he wants me to shrink myself small enough to dissolve on the tip of his tongue, and I write in my most sweetest voice:
These words are bullets shooting out of my mouth, falling onto your lap and I expect you to eat them
I Symbolized my fists into similes
Deconstruct systematic oppression with my two hands,
I hide black boy eulogies under my tongue
Breathe life into the darkness of their skin,
I am a metaphorical mother,
I am the physical representation of black joy
Ever seen a body, shed its blackness before its burial
Ever see a Black boy dance swing underneath popular trees, like the blues are no comparison to his complexion
Ever see black girl, make spectacle of her innards
Call it art,
Call it a revolution entirely
My throat swallows ancestral misogyny
I make my body into a graveyard for ungrateful men,
Build a shrine to worship my mother's uterus,
I bleed along with my pen
I make a taser from my tongue,
I spit venom from my vernacular
Isn't this a Woman's poem?
Isn't this prophecy of a revolution?
Isn't this a revolution entirely?
This is a sacrament to African deities
This is the rebirth of stolen children,
A congregation of consonants genuflecting for your approval,
This poem is a revival,
This doesn't make me a prophet,
But my belief in it does
Why he acting like I ain't born from blood and steel,
My mouth has been wired shut for the past 18 years of my life,
Best, believe I burn bridges when I open it,
My poems are eulogies for every unmarked grave littered with
Black bodies, with brown bodies, women's bodies, gay bodies trans bodies
Best believe I make the white guilt crawl outta your body,
Cause these words are bullets,
Shooting out of my mouth,
Falling onto your lap and I expect you to eat them
Tell’em a revolution is coming,
Tell’em poetry sets papers ablaze,
Tell’em poetry sets stage into smoldering ash
Tell’em we ain't prophesying ish anymore
Tell’em the revolution done came and conquered