Spoken word is an artistry that has been overlooked for many years. But with such bold voices like Mina west bringing the skill to light, we can no longer ignore it.
North London bred, Mina West is an upcoming British poet, most renowned for her poem “Let’s be Honest”, which tackles sex before marriage from a Christian perspective. West’s fluid language and unashamed use of British slang spoke to the hearts of many struggling with the same ordeal.
“The Crown” an ode to natural hair, uplifts and encourages women of colour to reject society’s western norms and embrace their natural curls. A topic most relevant in this era of the natural hair movement.
NU People magazine, sat down with 26-year-old poet, to discuss her inspirations, poems, spirituality and much more.
- What initially inspired you to do spoken word? Is there a poet you saw or heard that made you want to pursue it?
Poetry and just writing things in general was a way for me to let out things that I wouldn’t usually share with people. For the longest, I would write in my diary from 9 years old just to get thoughts out of my head. I would make little rhymes now and then, but by no means was I a rapper, I didn’t even understand what the spoken word movement was. I remember me and brother used to have rap battles between each other and he would annihilate me, so I never saw it as something that I would event try and do. So, it wasn’t until I was 18 I was on Facebook and someone posted something from Def jam poetry and I was just mesmerised. And I was just stuck on YouTube that day, just watching spoken word over and over. And I looked back in my diary and there were some pieces, and I was thinking “could this be spoken word?”. In terms of inspiration, its’ something that I just always felt free in doing.
- Your spiritually seems to shape your poetry, especially “Let’s be honest now” – have you always been spiritual or did this come over time?
That’s something that comes over time, growth, experiences, life and my own personal battle with God. I think, I’m quite big on having a relationship with God and I feel sometimes God specifically speaks to me through my poetry. Sometimes God will let my poetry be my outlet because he knows I need to get something out. And with “Let’s be honest”, I’m going to be completely honest it didn’t start off around that twist. It talks about being a slave to something, I didn’t know it was going to have that twist and I was like “crap I think God wants to speak to me with this”.
In all honesty, my poetry is always going to speak about where I am in my time if life. So, regardless of poetry, I think spirituality/relationship is key and so naturally It will feature I my poetry. Even if it’s not intentional, there might always be a note that refers to God.
Sometimes I feel like my poetry is just for myself. But then I’ll be writing and thinking maybe this is something I should share with other people who are feeling the same way.
- “The crown” skyrocketed to success, but I read on your website that you wouldn’t call yourself a “natural hair nazi” – so where did the inspiration to write that poem come from?
On my blog, I didn’t want to be perceived as a natural hair Nazi. The whole reason, as to why I chose to have natural hair was through learning about African history. Everyone’s know what happened to black people in history and I appreciate where we are now. But what has been changed from that? And from a young age I was personally never taught to love my natural hair and it’s no issue of generation, this is just something that was carried on to us. From learning about my hair, and my history, I was like, “When I have a young girl, what image am I going to portray to them”. Because one thing I always say is that black girls; we are mad creative and we show that through our hair. So, I would never limit us and say oh “we can’t wear weave”. I just don’t like how, at a period that was perceived as beautiful. Don’t get me wrong, the movement has changed and the movement is strong and it’s amazing. I was part of crew watching the YouTube on “how to get your hair long” and stuff like that, I want people to embrace every style but embrace your roots as well. Being Black means being creative as well. If you look at the styles they used to do; I even admire people like Madame C J Walker, who created different techniques.
- You recently collaborated with MP YamFam on the recent spoken word “PHOX NEWS” – how did that collaboration come about and why that subject?
MP is my boy and I’ve known him for years. He contacted me and said “Hey mina, we should do a poem together”. It just happened to be during the time of the police brutality, that we were seeing going on in America. And all of us, when we saw that our hearts literally pained and you want to do something, and no one is sure what direction to go in. but for me what irritates me is the way the media portray is. Like really? You’ve got video footage of someone killing someone, regardless of the police uniform and you’re still try to frame it as justified. I’m so thankful for things like social media, where a lot of people have their own voice, but the way you keep displaying us, makes it so other people can think that’s who we are. And that not so, it’s not true. It was kind of like “let’s shed light on this”. Sometimes, I read the newspaper and the way they frame our race compared to someone from another race is just ridiculous. A young black kid will be portrayed as criminal, but another kid of a different race will be portrayed as a child and it just upsets me. I think the media shouldn’t be so biased, but they are and they’re the ones with the money.
- Do you feel like xenophobia and racial profiling are overlooked in the UK?
It’s in the UK, but we have a different issue to what America has. And I can’t speak too much on that, because obviously, I don’t live out there. And living in London, I can appreciate that I am a black female, but my brother is black male and he’s been profiled several times, and that irritates me. I’ve issues and experiences and I’m just grateful that the police in this country are not ‘trigger happy’. The story that pains me the most is the Sandra Bland case; I cry thinking about that. Because I’ve had a time when my light wasn’t working on my car and the police man stopped me. And he asked me to get out the car. And I was probably behaving the same way Sandra bland was. He asked me to get in his police car and I said I didn’t want to. I just look at the Sandra bland case and think “that could have been me”. Because it was the literally the same thing that happened.
It’s not just in the police force, it can be in the work place; how you’re perceived or because you’re black to have to accustom yourself to another way just for approval. So, it’s done in other ways.
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Spoken word is something that I’m going to keep pursing. It’s one of those things where like, if your heart beats for it, you can’t not do it. I went through a phase where I wasn’t doing it, because I got accustomed to working and being a student. I never felt content, I never truly felt that I was where I needed to be. I know now, being an independent artist, that comes with challenges itself, but I feel, if that is your passion, it ultimate’s your purpose. So, I can’t stray away from it, otherwise I wouldn’t be giving myself the best opportunity I can in this world. I see myself doing some more projects, I’m even working on some projects now. Just pushing myself to limits, limits that I don’t know where they’re going but I’m quite excited about it.
- If you could, give your 16-year-old self some advice, what would it be?
I would tell myself to be free. To not be afraid to be free. I think even being 26 years old, I’m still cautious of how people are going to perceive me. I tell myself at the end of day, that am I not a people pleaser. Because you can only please so many people in this world. You know your morals; you know your values. People who respect you and care about you, won’t change. Just be free, be comfortable and being confident in being you; and Poetry allows me to be that.
Make sure to check our Mina’s newest poem PHOX News, and be sure to follow her social media to keep up to dates with her lasts events and poems.
By Vanessa Donkoh