I don’t do Poetry for Awards – Christena Williams

Could you introduce yourself?

Greetings and Salutations to the World, I am Christena Antonia Valaire Williams. I am a reserved and introspective lady who basks in nature, God, art and life. Additionally, I am a follower of Christ, Poet, Content Creator, Spoken word Performer and an Author. I am a native of Portmore, St. Catherine, A graduate of Spanish Town High school and have a BA Degree with Honors in History and Philosophy from the University of the West Indies.

What’s your nationality?

I am a descendant of Nubian Kings and Queens. I am a Jamaican.

You’re a poet. Why did you decide to go into poetry?

I did not decide to go into Poetry. I began writing at age ten because it was my escape from a dysfunctional society.  As a young girl I needed to express my fears, joy and tears and every emotion I was not capable of displaying or understanding.It was also one of the few things my family could afford as we grew up very poor. So pen, paper, pencil, notebook and books were what I had to keep my mind active in a world of imagination and inspiration. I grew up reading many books like Tom Sayers, Nancy Drew, World of Poetry, The Secret Garden and hearing lots of music and Dub poetry from Mutabaruka and DYCR on radios echoing in my community. In later years I won a Talent competition in my community when I was 17 with my poem, “Survival” that I wrote at age 15. My neighbours, organizers and church members encouraged me to continue writing which motivated me. I have always loved Art, music and reading. I always had a mind for creativity and investigation and I guess very philosophical. At age of ten I enjoyed watching shows.. I did however consciously and purposely pursue Poetry more professionally when I was 19 as my first published poem; “Heart Surgeon” was featured in The Gleaner Newspaper in Jamaica which motivated me to continue writing and as they say the rest is history.

Why are many, I may be wrong, Jamaicans into poetry?

Jamaica is well poised and known as a Mecca of Music, Arts and Culture. We are spiritually aligned people. We are also descendants of warriors and our DNA is spilling with greatness and creativity. Most People know Jamaica for Bob Marley and Reggae but there is another Jamaican, (Deceased) Louise Bennett, (Miss Lou), who is considered as a Legend and Cultural icon who spread Poetry and paved the way for our native language, (Patois) to be recognized and accepted worldwide.Another Figure who helped to popularize poetry and among pioneers is the father of Dub Poetry, Oku Onuora and others such as Linton Kwesi Johnson and Mutabaruka. In essence Poetry is a way of life. It is wrapped up in one’s spirituality and for some, that may be Rastafari principles. It is also in our DNA coming from the slave trades of Africans using Poetry as their signal,communication and expression from oppression. Poetry is a chanting and rebellious expression that speaks truth and is used as a weapon of mobilization and edutainment (education + Entertainment) amongst people. It is a vehicle that is used to transport knowledge, comedy, information, pain, history and enjoyment. It is one of many genres that Jamaicans used to challenge the stagnant regime, oppression and human violation and it is a message to the world. So I believe with our History, People and living conditions, Poetry has become our mouthpiece of wailing and a weapon of resistance to any injustice against people.

Do you stand for a particular cause?

Yes, I stand for conscious, righteous and natural Human life, Human Rights and justice. To be more specific Black Liberation, women’s rights, and children rights from abuse.We are first Human beings before we are separated into categories. I believe many people fail to see, realize and understand that aspect of life. If we saw each other as Human beings then we would understand to treat each other as such. Other categorization is just for social identification for clarity and living interaction in a balanced way.

I’ve watched some of your videos. You say you’ve given your life to Christ. Has it affected your poetry? 

Yes. I have always been someone who is righteous, conscious, positive and spiritually aligned in my mission to speak empowerment and truth.  But now I have moved from a general view to a specific view that surrounds my faith and is aligned with Christ and his biblical teachings. It will take me some time to adjust but my mission is to testify and minister with my poetry to win souls for God. I am not a fanatic or someone who forces my faith on anyone because I believe people have a right and choice but I am declaring myself so no one is misled about my beliefs.

You’ve won some awards, how does it make you feel?

It is definitely an accomplishment and great honour to be rewarded and awarded by your country and peers. I am definitely honoured and humbled by such kind appreciation and gesture. It is also a testimony of a simple girl who used to scribble on paper in my room going through all my pain and then be acknowledged locally and internationally, that is a wow.. The impossible have become possible and it is an inspiration to young women and poets to continue the works. I do not do Poetry for awards because the mission is to use my work as social and spiritual activism but one cannot deny that awards give the artist more credence and acceptance.

 Awards for which I have won are: Certificate of Excellence Sarabita Masters Award for 2020 from New York based Ah Times Ras Productions, International Spoken Word Artist of the Year for 2020 by the People of Extraordinary Talent (P.O.E.T) organization and Blaq Ice Productions in Chicago for which retained in 2021, Prime Minister’s National Youth Award for Excellence in Arts and Culture 2013 in Jamaica and is the most prestigious awards for a youth. I received a Major Art award from the Jamaican Youth Empowerment through Culture, Arts and Nationalism (JAYECAN) organization in 2016. While I did not win I am grateful to be the second female to be nominated and the youngest in the 39th International Reggae and World Music Awards (IRAWMA) in the Category of Mutabaruka Best Poet/Spoken word.

Tell us your happiest day, so far.

It was December 20th, 2011 when I was gun held and robbed by a young man on a bicycle as I was walking on the street maybe around 6:15 am going to work. It was a terrifying moment because the area is known for being very peaceful and  almost no gun violence. It is a happy day because I lived and survived the ordeal at the age of 18 not knowing that by age 20, I would publish my first book and then at 21, I would win the Prime Minister’s National Youth Award for Excellence in Arts and Culture. Thank God my life was not snuffed out and that I can live to give my testimony.

What about your most embarrassing moment?

The Most embarrassing moment was when it was alleged a neighbour called the police on me and my family. Narcotics police surrounded my home and said they got a tip that my house was  a drug base but on further investigation they realized it was a false claim. It was funny because I do not drink, smoke or take any kind of drugs even if I wake up with the flu or a headache I prefer to make tea or drink soup or porridge. It is a traditional Jamaican way of life as we believe in plants (we call it bush too) as our medicine. While it was embarrassing,annoying and discriminatory I was still unfazed because my character speaks for itself.

What message do you have for young people out there?

One of my favourite scripture is Mark 9 vs. 36 (NIV) and it says, “what good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” In everything we do we have to know the purpose why we are doing it and if it is righteous and will make us sleep at night and happy when it is our time to leave the earth. No one is perfect but our choices dictate our decisions that determines our future.

I also encouraged youths across Jamaica and the world to persevere their integrity and stand up for their rights as well as speak out against injustice. To be a writer is a human being who has an enormous responsibility to speak truth and advocate for justice written and spoken as our art are a form of activism. It is also very important to get to know you in this world of chaos and confusion. As how you see yourself in this world is important as many people will have their perception but the truest representation is your narrative; the Untold story of your being. Take your time to work on you and your craft and know that failure is an option because it is a learning lesson to try again and be better than before.

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