Halal If You Hear Me: A Night of Diaspora Poetry

Written by Christian Sanchez
photos via Twitter

As part of Louder Than A Bomb Poetry Festival, Halal If You Hear Me was a night of performance centered on Muslim artists, as well as community building led by the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN).

Halal If You Hear Me was hosted at the Jane Addams Hull House Museum on the University of Illinois at Chicago campus. Many came out to the west side LTAB17 event, some created space for themselves to sit in aisles and others stood in the back waiting for the open mic to start. The museum’s Director Jennifer Scott welcomed the crowd and introduced the host for the night, poet Safia Elhillo. Elhillo’s first full length collection The January Children was released by University of Nebraska Press this month. She has also been featured in The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop and co-edited the anthology Halal If You Hear Me with Fatima Asghar.

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Elhillo created an atmosphere of fun and protection during the event, making an effort to rid us of the evil eye in 2017. Poets took the stage to share their writings on diaspora, identity, and love. Some poets expressed exhaustion at seeing themselves only as a political entity due to their backgrounds, sharing poetry that was more intimate. Resistance was inherent in all the poetry shared. There were also poets who more directly called out the current political climate, reclaiming their identities from the problematic narratives shared in the media.

Community building was the second component of the night. Organizations like IMAN and Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR) Chicago were present to share their missions and invite the audience to learn more about them. Community building also happened through the night via the support the audience gave to each poet who graced the stage. There were a handful of poets who shared their nervousness or new-comer status with the crowd. Each time they were received with shouts of support, snapping, and clapping, encouraging the poet throughout their piece.

To close out the open mic, the work of Asghar was read, and Elhillo shared some of her recent poetry. Energies were high as diaspora poetry was celebrated amongst the LTAB’s diverse community.

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