“My name say I can’t be impossible, because I be in existence: Ebony.”
This line is from a poem written by Ebony Stewart, a spoken-word artist from Texas, performed as her self-introduction at the Nov. 20 Hour After performance.
Stewart is a three-time Slam Champion in Austin, has coached several slam teams and has been featured in publications like the “Texas Observer” and “For Harriet.” In the biography on her website, Stewart writes that she “writes because she has to and eats cupcakes for fun.”
Stewart is also a former sexual health educator, which influences much of the subject matter of her poetry and her trips to colleges.
Ammon Allen-Doucot, a senior, and Achieng Agutu, a sophomore, opened for Stewart’s Hour After event with some of their own slam poems, performing both separately and in joint pieces.
“I enjoyed working with such a talented fellow,” said Agutu. “I look forward to performing more slam with him.”
Agutu has performed some of her poems at various public events on campus like Kick Off, and plans to share her poetry on YouTube and with several talent agencies.
Even with this experience, she said that she still gets nervous.
“It gets harder the more you perform because people expect you to be better than your previous performance,” she said. “So the pressure is high around here.”
Allen-Doucot shared poems of his like “Notes for When My Child Falls in Love” and “Task Manager.”
“Task Manager is a poem about ADHD,” said Allen-Doucot. “It’s very dependent on the performance to bring it to life.”
Among Agutu’s poems were “I am Woman,” which is a poem she wrote at a difficult time in her semester.
Together, Allen-Doucot and Agutu performed “Light Another Candle, Say Another Prayer,” a poem about racism in the United States that won them the fan-favorite award at Kick Off this fall.
When Stewart took the stage, she commended Allen-Doucot and Agutu on their writing and performance.
“Goosebumps… goosebumps, y’all,” she said, shaking her head.
Stewart then went on perform a number of her own poems, which included topics of identity, sexuality and coming-of-age.
Stewart emphasizes engagement with the audience, and asked questions between poems in order to get a feel for the crowd.
She told the audience, “This moment we are having will never happen in this way again, so we’ve got to honor it.”
After performing, Stewart spent some time answering questions about sexual health, romance, friendship, poetry and more that students had written down anonymously.
As a self-described “life writer” and “puzzle piece poet,” Stewart writes lines down as inspiration hits, then goes back later to piece them together into complete poems.
Allen-Doucot said, “I think the draw of slam poetry is how broad it can be. You can have people like Achieng and me who take the stage with force, high intensity and the like. [But] people like Ebony, who don’t do as much yelling but draw the audience in more subtly, [have] just as much power. The performer is half of the show.”