In a soaring, spoken word poetry program held on Thursday evening July 30th, Zenaida Peterson (they/them), energized a multi-generational audience of 110+ Friends with their poems, a song, worship sharing and poetry writing.
Presenting from home, Zenaida began with “a few things about me.” They are a non-binary person from Georgia who moved to Boston, where they’ve been working for Quaker Voluntary Service (QVS). Religion and spirituality are important to them, and they’ve led several online worship sharings, including a recent one with PYM Young Adult Friends (YAF).
Zenaida told the group how excited they were to be with Friends at annual sessions and to have time with Youth Programs earlier in the day.
With the young people today, I shared that my appreciation for poetry is how accessible it is. You don’t have to have a canvas or cameras or a studio to write poetry.
I don’t need a stage to share with you all.
Words, brought together, tell stories that last in people’s minds and hearts. Zenaida’s poems drew listeners in; Friends felt the power of the poetry and sent messages of thanks, laughter, applause, and joy to Zenaida via chat.
Their first poem began “I am thinking about a plum I ate once.” Those that followed touched on Black and Queer identity, God, the seen world, power, trees, femme, “less hard change,” sleep, reading the paper, justice. Words hung in the digital silence at the close of each poem. The poem “I need to be watered, too” was spoken out. The phrase “Tell the trees that I say hello” stayed in a Friend’s mind.
Zenaida reflected that “a lot of my poetry … grew out of the poetry slam scene in Boston, and nationally, I’ve competed around the country and I really love that community.” As the founder of the nonprofit Feminine Empowerment Movement Slam (FEMS), Zenaida has lifted up femme poets in the Slam poetry community by creating a slam space dedicated to femme work.
Digital spaces convene people over distances in wonderful ways. Zenaida turned the Zoom chat space into a place for engagement, connecting people through reflection, writing, and sharing messages. Breakout groups also held worship sharing spaces during which people shared their thoughts. Friends took time to compose and read out their own Haiku.
Towards the end of the evening Zenaida presented the PYM poem. People inspired by the queries had been invited to share reflections which Zenaida then wove into a yearly meeting poem.
- Query: How do we find Spirit in the shadows during this time?
- Query: What does it mean to be Faithful now?
Poem Am I a little Quaker child like my ancestors? Am I a different Quaker now? “Give the Police Departments to the Grandmothers” give the meetings to the young people I found empty spray cans on the side of the road dancing in a pearly reflection of the sky. And there beside it the brilliant color of yearning etched graffiti Black lives matter will they listen will we listen will I listen this time. Some of us have always lived and found Spirit in the shadows. Some of us are just learning the shadows exist. Much ugliness has been exposed shadows protect fear, partly. We want it carefully, guarded. We invite worry and loneliness to reside with us in darkness. Our fear is us and our anger is us and we fight light. We fight until community breaks in, entering to dispel, bring light, in spite of our fear. A different narrative is possible. Imagination is the key to make us new. Leaning out of the shadows I can see the light light that blinds and warms.