Writers Share Experiences During Mercy’s Poetry Slam


Becoming a poet takes a lot of hard work and dedication because you have to take time out of your day to just sit in a corner and think about what you’re gonna write about, and sometimes you’re stuck on what to do.

However, it’s always important to never rush the process when writing stories, poems, or anything you do in life. Always communicate your thoughts and emotions into different styles of writing to convey the message.

Joan ‘Lyric’ Leslie is a performance poet, community organizer, and podcast host, born and raised in Harlem, and opened up about writing poems and how she became a poet.

“When I was in college, I always wanted to be a lawyer, but I realized that my true passion in life was to become a writer because I’ve been performing at colleges through the academic year in 2009 and I wanted to share my story so people won’t be alone and they can also relate to my early struggles figuring out what I wanted to be in life,” Leslie said.

Rabih Ahmed is also a Ghanaian- American Muslim poet, entrepreneur, and former educator born in the Bronx. She’s someone who believes in the beauty of the African culture of having direct lineage to the continent. She pushes herself to continue participating in the cultural stability of Africa throughout the world, particularly in Latin America.

“In regards to my writing, I really focus on what it means to be an African woman in the Western   hemisphere of the world while making these connections to my story, poetry, and traveling the entire world,” Ahmed said.

She will be heading to Colombia next week which she actually wanted to live there before the pandemic and do research on African-Colombian writers particularly who had some interaction or impact on the war that was happening in Colombia. Other than that, she’s relieved to take a break from New York and learn more about the Colombian culture. Besides that, being fresh out of college can be hard for some students especially Rabih because she was unsure of what she wanted to do with her major.

“When I was in college, I studied political science, black studies, because it had some interests in me but I knew that I wasn’t gonna pursue anything in the round of politics or the government,” Ahmed said. She also added “I actually pursued my major just to prove people that I can do it and that I can be one of those successful black women who majored in political science and ended up getting a 4.0 on my last semester.” 

However, it didn’t motivate her as much because she still had to prove herself to others that being a black woman is so expensive especially in poetry. After she graduated from college, she still had no desires pursuing her career.

“After coming out of college I came back to the hood with my 25k in debt, there’s what I call the post-graduate depression because I didn’t have a job lined up and I didn’t know what to do so I was battling with what it meant to be successful” Ahmed said.

As a result, she started talking to other people that are in different career fields and asked them why they chose that career. After she did those interviews with people, it influenced her to write poems, her heart knew that she wanted to write poems to heal any pain she went through. Even within her black city departments it was very traumatic because she feels like her department wasn’t enough in regards to other people. They weren’t focused on teaching them about their economic power, teaching them about their ability to be resilient and resistant, it wasn’t focused on the affirmative component of what we have as a one people.

“We’re not one people, black studies really focuses on American experience and being a child of an immigrant and a traveler, you know I had an analysis that the program wasn’t incorporating, so I had to battle what is the truth,” Ahmed said. 

She added “Once I started opening up and showing out in the world as a poet, the opportunities started coming for me in the spaces, the circles of community began to fortify around me .”

As a result, in about six months after she performed and then three months after she created her website she was invited to perform at the Apollo and then she was invited three months later to perform at the main stage. She was shocked to see all these big opportunities coming to her.

“I’ve already had these signals in life that this is what I’m really good at and this is what I’m passionate about but because we live in a capitalistic system where they don’t honor enough writers or our artists that need to be recognized more for our hard work,” Ahmed said.

Other than that, she reflects on what artists go through when they produce poems including herself because the most difficult part is getting the work done. They struggle everyday trying to figure out what’s their next story they want to write while staying present at the same time. She believes that people shouldn’t put too much pressure at being the best writer.

“Being an artist you’re doing work from your heart and your soul but your heart and your soul can’t produce poems everyday for work, especially any published task, it’s not possible,” Ahmed said.  

Overall, Rabih has come to the realization where she doesn’t put too much pressure into writing and not comparing herself to other writers because she can only be herself and that’s what makes her a true artist by sticking to her beliefs and showing the young writers they can achieve their goals as long as they do the work and believe in themselves.


“Finding your voice, trusting yourself, and doing the work to know yourself is all that matters, just believe that your talented as a result of you showing up as yourself, no one can take that authenticity away from you,” Ahmed said.


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