This month's Empowered Women Empower Women series features a writer and poetry artist who followed her dreams and never looked back. She writes from the heart and creates pieces that we can all relate too.
Tarikua is the prime definition of what happens when passion meets determination.
Enjoy reading all about her journey and how she balances life a mother/wife/writer and poetry artist!
Thank you for your words and this platform!
I was born in the 80's and came of age in the 90's...back when the culture of music, movies, and TV shows were so uplifting and exciting. My favorite singer growing up was Janet Jackson, and I loved Tupac. His lyrics and vibe were so raw, and his ability to speak with such realness was something I enjoyed. When I found out that both Janet and Tupac were doing a movie called Poetic Justice I was so excited! I counted down to when it was available to watch, I asked my mom, and she was on-board when the day arrived. I was dancing in my seat. I was ten years old at the time. I still remember that day, and how my mom kept looking over at me as she saw I was deeply moved. I was into the movie (granted some scenes she did cover my eyes LOL). It was more than the film and the storyline that I enjoyed, I was drawn and captured by the poetry. I had never heard poetry in such a tone. When I heard "Phenomenal women" for the first time, (in the movie), I was blown away.
I instantly went into research mode; I wanted to know the voice behind the poetry in the movie. It was then, when I discovered and fell in love with the work of Maya Angelou. I didn't know that poetry was done in OUR voice. Some of the poetry I had read previously just didn't speak to me. It didn't have the same history or tone, but when I discovered Maya Angelou, and how she used experiences and language that I could relate to, it touched me in a way that nothing ever had. I knew then that was what I wanted to do.
As many do, I got distracted by life (high school, friends, college, etc.). I didn't write for years then something unexpected happened. I gave birth to my first born child and the day we brought him home from the hospital, I was watching him sleep. My husband had fallen asleep as well, but his computer was on the coffee table, and something from the pit of my stomach grabbed me. I remember opening up a Word document, and having these words pour out. I stayed up until 4:30 am. I kept looking at the sweetest gift God had given us, my son, and this burst of energy poured out. I wrote my first set of 6-7 poems that night.
Many of the poems that night were on the legacy I wanted to leave behind for him/them (him and any others that were to follow).
I wanted to leave behind something, so when my children grew up and wanted to know more about me I had something more than pictures, like footprints, my writing is like a journal, a chronicle of my world; the social, political, cultural climate in my time, along with thoughts on relationships, love marriage, etc. What motivates me to write each day is how cathartic writing is, when I hear of a story or issues in the news, or situations arise in my life writing is how I process it.
Another important factor that keeps me going is the faith my family and close friends have in me. A few days after my mom passed (which was the hardest time in my life), I was sitting down alone when one of my aunts approached me and recalled a conversation where my mom told them about my writing and how proud she was of me. They told me never to stop writing; that stays with me every single day. From my brother to husband to close friends who continue to, what I call “add water to soil”, by sharing words of praise and affirmations, it really motivates me to keep going. God continues to pour down words for me to write. I'm just grateful to be the vessel that's used.
I think the balance of vulnerability. My poetry and writing are an expression of my thoughts, my opinions, my world. Not everything I write is of my own experiences, some are from stories that friends, people I meet, or things I see, but since art is a form of expression, artists can be very protective and sensitive about their craft. It took 6 years before I was able to share my first poem, and before that, no one except for my immediate family and best friend knew that I wrote. I'm a pretty open book, but writing, I kept close to my chest. It was like a fragile dream that I had, and I thought the moment I shared it, it would be broken in someway. It took some time for me to be comfortable enough in my skin to open up.
My poetry took a turn in direction around the time that the Black Lives Matter movement started. I found myself channeling my frustrations, on the social, political, and cultural realm into my poetry. Hearing the stories of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Mike Brown, and others, my poetry went from self-reflective (addressing love, healing, relationship, etc.) to more cultural awareness. I began to understand that the writing I was doing was not only cathartic but essential, I started writing to shed light on an array of topics from domestic violence, to police brutality, sex trafficking, immigration reform, etc. I couldn't hide behind my insecurities, self-doubt, or fear of what others thought; the purpose in writing became so much bigger. I realized I had a greater duty, to use what God blessed me with and shine light on issues that are affecting society and the world, even if it just touches one person, I'm content and happy in doing what I've been called to do.
Some steps I would also suggest are:
1. Believe in yourself! (Even if all those around you don't)
2. Be patient. There will be times when the creative juices may not flow and you go through a dry spell (this is common). In those times, rest, take some quiet time, walk, spend some time with friends, also read work, news, and watch movies that inspire you. I find this helps me come up with topics and new issues to address in my writing.
3. Don't get caught up in numbers, the minute you write to appease certain groups or to attract more viewers, is the moment you stop being authentic in your work. Not everyone may like or agree with you, but if the work you produce has purpose, then it was by design, and is meant to bless the person it was intended for.
The biggest for me would be to #1.Believe in yourself. The first time I shared a piece of my poetry, it was well-received, but the second time I remember someone close to me asking "Now this is not what you'll be doing full-time, right"? Lol. This comment is one I continue to get from my community, it's not meant to say "Lady, don't quit your day job," but instead more like, “this is a hobby, right”? In the beginning, I would say, "Yes, of course, it's just something for fun." The question was reconfirming my thoughts. "This can't be a career, right?" I'm Ethiopian and in the Habesha culture, careers are 9-5, "writing" and Arts in general (music, entertainment, artists) are what most view as hobbies, they're not professions.
I did the 9-5, I have an MBA and worked corporate jobs in Marketing and Project Management, but it wasn't me. I knew within me, there was something more, and I didn't want to do what everyone was doing just to do it (stable income, retire at 65 same work day in and day out).
I guess because I saw death so close (in my family and friends circle), I understood the value of time; tomorrow isn't promised, and on my deathbed, I don't want to say "I did well by x company"…. I want to say I lived! I loved! I inspired, and I'm ready! So, I took a hiatus. I decided to focus on writing, I'm thankful for a husband that supported my decision, and it wasn't until last year that I owned it. I had prayed hard on it and knew this was not only my passion but also my purpose.
When someone asks me,"what do you do?" I say I'm a writer. It's incredibly empowering too know who you are, no matter who asks you. When I say, I'm a writer I'm agreeing and surrendering to what God has called me to do and it's so freeing.
A line from one of my poems is "I am, and who I am is me, no more apologies."
I'm wrapping up two books. I finished a fiction, and I'm adding a few more pieces to my poetry book and hope to get that published this year. I'm also working on two screens play for a movie that I'm excited about. I've loved movies since infancy, I've always been an avid movie buff! Especially movies that can have me laughing, crying, and thinking. I love films that are motivating and up-lifting. I always walk out of those type of movies thinking that's what I want to do one day. A movie that inspires people and leaves people feeling good. I grew up in the 90s so TV and movies that showed positive content, especially in the African American community were huge. Sitcoms like The Cosbys, A Different World, Family Matters, etc... It dealt with issues but also brought laughter and education while entertaining the viewers, which for me was so dope to watch.
In 5 years, if it is God’s will, I see two books published. My screenplays for my movie in production, with prospects and deals to start production on my TV shows.
If I have poems or ideas that come to me while I am with the family I usually have my phone, and I jot it down in the notes section on my phone so I don't lose the words or idea and work on it when I get some alone time (which is mostly at night).
I'm blessed that my family really encourages and supports my writing. When the kids know I've been moved by a story, or article or just something that came to me and I get on the computer to write, they get as excited as I do. They look forward to hearing my pieces.They sometimes ask to listen to it before it's even complete. I share my pieces with my family first. After I wrap up a piece, especially those that are sparked by social or cultural injustice, I sit my children down, explain the situation that occurred then and show them the work. I never want my kids to have their blinders on in life. It's essential to show them the roses, but also the thorns so they can see the beauty in this world but also understand and be aware of the social environment.
When the Black Lives Matter movement took place, I wrote a piece called "I can't breathe" (Eric Garner's final words as he was being restrained) and asked my husband to do the voice over, which made it more powerful. I enjoy including them and hearing their thoughts on my work.
I'm a night owl, so naturally, most of my writing happens at night when the kids are sleeping. When I'm working on a piece, I get so focused and deep in thoughts that there have been nights when I would look up and the sun is rising. I had stayed up and 5- 6 hours had gone by, way into the wee hours, that's the beauty in doing something you love, it doesn't feel like work and time is nonexistent staying in that moment. Your art becomes an extension of who you are.
I started having this conversation with God when I was about 27. I was sitting down, and I started crying (not the pretty slow petal cries but those gut-wrenching ugly cries), and I was asking God what my purpose was? I thought “man, I'm getting old”, (insert eye roll for ignorance in thinking 27 was old then) but I kept asking for God to use me and show me what He wanted me to do with my life.
I stopped crying all of a sudden, and I was breathing hard and trying to catch my breath and clear as day a voice within me said "You were created to be a writer, that's your purpose…Write"!
I stopped crying and got myself up. After that day, I kept asking the question time and time again, and with prayer and fasting that same answer re-sounding voice would simply say "write." I tried drowning it out, thinking there had to be something more. The answer never changed.
My greatest accomplishment is surrendering to God’s purpose and will for my life. I am doing what I've been called to do — and finally Listening.
As for if I feel like "I’ve"Made it" ? I would say no, not at all and I'm happy with that because it's the first time in my life where I feel like I'm on the right path. I'm enjoying the process and the journey towards making "it."
One quote I go back to, time and time again is one I wrote that night when we brought our son home from the hospital. It was the last poem I wrote that night, and it was also the shortest. It read:
"My legacy may it be one you carry proudly; my name may it be a name you say with distinguish and clarity."
I want my legacy to be etched in, and not just for the masses to see and applaud but for my children to see, and hope one day applaud, and to say my name with not only love but with pride. My name is not the easiest to pronounce, (ha) (Ta-Re-Qu-Wa- Tarikua) so writing work that's moving or inspiring enough for them (my children) but and also those that read my work to take notice and say and want to pronounce my name with distinction and clarity.
I pray. I'm a believer, and my faith is a part of who I am, I remind myself that when I'm keeping God at the center of my life, all things will fall in place. When I'm feeling overwhelmed, I take a deep breath and try to put things in perspective.
I would say to anyone that's reading and having a dream, never let anyone steal a dream that God has placed inside of you, don't get so complacent with life that you're going through the motions (in a job you hate). Life is too short for that. One of my favorite scriptures is John 10:10, "I came so that you can have life and live it more abundantly." If God gave you the vision, He will make the provision; believe in that and don't settle.
I hope you enjoyed reading Tarikua's amazing journey and more importantly I hope it has inspired you to go out and follow your dreams. Make sure to follow Tarikua's journey on social media at @herpoetictruth_1.
Please be sure to stay tuned for monthly featured posts from other empowered women. Contact me if you would life to share your story and empower our readers. As always, I'd love to hear from you.