Each day this week, KCRW is spotlighting the homegrown budding talent sourced via the Young Creators Project, a community arts mentorship platform celebrating the creative work of SoCal residents under 21.
Salome Agbaroji, a third-year student at Gahr High School in Artesia, finds joy in crafting poetry that urges social change and community action, focusing on themes of racism, oppression, femininity, Christianity, and inclusion. She has written and performed spoken word poetry for the Golden Globes, NFL Rams, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Black Lives Matter Founder Patrisse Cullors, Mrs. Tina Lawson, and many more.
“My art is my voice, and I'm eager to share it with the world,” she says.
Agbaroji has performed her poetry live many times and she was the youngest winner of the 16th Annual Ill-List Poetry Slam.
“The adrenaline from the competition and the camaraderie from sharing a space with seven other extremely talented poets from all demographics and ages worked in tandem to create a memorable experience,” she says.
Poem by Salome Agbaroji:
Pretty Places of LA
I've been to places pretty.
Pretty places like Beverly Hills,
Where mimosas and liquid diamonds crash on the shoreline.
These beach dwellers collect inner-city properties like sea shells
And trade real estate like spades cards.
These places pretty enough for screen time on your television,
Pretty much the poster child of Los Angeles,
And epitome of daddy’s money.
I’ve been to places pretty.
Like Hollywood and its Walk of Fame.
If Dorothy’s ruby slippers were red bottoms
She’d be trotting this white gold road—feeling
Oh so OZtentatious—feeling
Higher than their class,
Higher than their all-glass, renovated, high-rise buildings,
Higher than their credit scores,
And their high rise Lululemon leggings
Where most are foreign to the concept of begging.
But I'm sure you’ve never been
to the lowlands of Los Ángeles:
The dark basement the brochures don't show.
Where no one knows a Dorothy,
But Dominique in her un-creased low rise dunks
Is always found walking where
Drugged corners intersect at Broke lanes.
Where Obinne, the Nigerian art collector, sells
A portrait of an afro Mona Lisa on the curb for $50.
Starving entrepreneurship; reparations
In our own hands.
The corner man whistles tunes only
Place ear to pavement, hear:
Queen Calafia’s war cries
clatter of tumbleweed-ed dice rolled about two blocks down
soft-spoken escape routes never received
color of marigold by girl eating mangonadas for her forever-th time
the subtle rumble of white porsches approaching from the hill side…
gentri is coming.
A calvary on credit-drawn carriages
Coming to make the place
I’d hoped the sound had been the coming of Jesus, finally
So the painting of Black Messiah in Obinne’s art shop
Made more sense—Made more than cents, finally
Because this living is protest.
This is the heart of LA that beats and weeps all the same.
But investors bleach its arteries with
Beige colors and Caramel fraps.
See street markets where black women sell
Incense and Head wraps
And mark it: “perfect location to reinvent hot yoga!”
Or to build a bank that will deny those same black women loans.
This is what you call…
Shines like heirloom pearls.
Not like pretty glimmer of grills in teeth.
No, pretty like veneers and messy bun.
Not pretty like barrettes on little black girls
Or street tacos.
Or graffiti done by people far too talented for their circumstance.
Or broken glass.
Or the unironic musicality of barber shops.
Not like that sweet little
old lady with only six teeth
But still smiled at me anyway
Like I was her own granddaughter.
Nah, that ain't pretty.
I’ve been to places pretty.
And I assure you, those pretty places
Got nothing on the heart of this city.
Young Creator’s poet spotlight: Gillian Chamberlin
Young Creator’s poet spotlight: Aiyana Sha’niel
Young Creator’s Project - Music