If bravery had a face it will be her. She is not the tallest of women folk, small in stature but presence so strong it is difficult to ignore. She is of African descent and prides herself in the pursuit of liberation and justice for women emancipation. She is D’bi young Anitafrika.
A Jamaican born and Toronto based storyteller and playwright, she effortlessly identifies with language and racial difference while addressing the focus of her work; female liberation.
There are a number of individuals advocating change on behalf of women, but this lady goes about hers in the most novel and unique of ways: storytelling. Passionate in her performance, emotional in her thoughts, artistic in her formulation and carriage, she weaves in detail and reality in the fine twines of art to project from an entertaining perspective, what we ought to be educated about. Anyone could have done same. Really? Anyone can capture an audience that cuts across different races with spoken words that go to the deep of the soul while, occupying the stage with the most unconventional stage performance costume? Not that many. I heard her mutter words in a Nigerian language, I thought was Yoruba. Indeed, it was Yoruba. Truth is, in difference and uniqueness she has not only addressed but enlightened as many that cared to listen, and as far as her conspicuous outfits go, those who couldn’t care less where drawn to listen. Child abuse, rape, chastisement for being HIV positive- All these are love songs she likes to sing and her choruses echoed on every stage she stood. Did I mention she has been on quite few? Yes she has.
Why does she speak?
The little girl in the farms of the suburbs whose mum had no idea ‘Uncle’ Mark was taking advantage of, Laura in secondary school who as safe as she tried to live, fell victim to HIV and has been despised even by those she called family and friends and Lebo who was scarred as a result of rape just because someone thought it an effective war tool, who speaks for them? (Watch a video HERE).
Her passion stems out of a desire to see change. Change through revolution, change through emancipation and most importantly, change triggered and inspired by love. It is tempting to say she is a suffragette, but even if she was, speaking for almost 60% of the world population, that is a good position to hold.
A poet, monodramatist and educator, she introduces her change initiative through 8 principles she call the sorplusi principles: Self knowledge, orality, rhythm, political context and content, language, urgency, sacredness and integrity. These principles by her standards involve reciprocal relationships between people and nations.
Self awareness is a very important part of human psychology and other than the literal meaning we know of it, the principles are geared towards helping people learn not only about themselves but also learn to love themselves and others- and these principles are ultimately intertwined to bring about accountability and responsibility as individuals to ourselves and others.
We tell our stories to make our struggles bearable. We speak ourselves into existence and use storytelling as an act of resistance. Through spoken words the energy and the mannerism that accompanies these words brings life to the message she is trying to relate.
Her performances are woman-centred and focus on the lives of Black women as they survive the traumas of magic, migration, sexual violence, childbirth, motherhood, death and rebirth.
Over an interview she expresses that “I’ve learned that I can’t present controversial subject matter and expect my audience to go home and be okay. There has to be a process where we can dialogue about the work. A storyteller is there first and foremost for the transformation of the community, and they must be responsible to the people who will allow them to be on stage.”
Her ideas are not self absorbed but attractive and intriguing to those who seek change and want to be part of that change. Change especially in the Black nation.
At the end of the day, it is not to say by reason of her presence and spoken words the ills that befall women have gone extinct as that will be preposterous to assume. But it is certain that more awareness has been created, it is brought to the knowledge of more people how child rape is viewed in some parts of the world (reference to her performance in “we women are warriors” and how the grandma mentioned that if a young girl was raped by an older man it was the young girl’s fault). She gestures to shift the blame from the victim (the young girl or woman) to the rapist who she perpetrates as evil and devilish in a classic ground performance hosted by Ink Talks in India.
More so, where spoken words did not create the change, they created an avenue for the birth of more spoken words, a cumulative that has been known to bring change. A look back in time will show the most grounded and historic liberations started off verbally. Today we celebrate positive change in different dynamics because one person was bold enough to identify the problem and speak out, not only speaking out but stating what ought to be.
It is no different with D’bi young’s work. She has identified the anomaly that women face just by existing as a human being and more importantly, by being a woman. According to her, “My personal life is the catalyst for my work because the story I am going to tell has to be rooted in some kind of truth. I don’t write autobiographies but I also try not to write about things I don’t know about. I know about myself, my family, the many intersecting communities that I participate in, and so I use those things as my starting points.” There is no better standpoint to view the predicament of a person than you being in that position yourself.
To those who have had the privilege to hear her speak, the responsibility lies on us to protect womanhood, to appreciate and love them- to accept them with that warmness that has the will and power to push away every shame and dissatisfaction with being female. We need to join voices with women to speak through the oppression, through the ostracism, the delimiting and social struggles they face by reason of their biological construction, being female- what was never a mistake from the start of creation in the first place. Joining voices does not necessarily mean speaking in the ordinary sense of the word but showing kindness and concern and looking out for one another. The benefit of this action is widespread, not just for the liberation of women but also for the healing of men who live within domestic and social confines with these women. All over the world there is a current uprising underway to stand up and speak up against rape molestation and abuse.
The #Give2STER Campaign on rape is an idea in par with what our heroine here, D’bi young is working towards. End the shame, end the violence, join voices and forces and preserve the sacredness of womanhood.