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This week's Poets of the Week are Chanel Dupree, an inspiring New Yorker who leaves everyone in awe of her work, and William Evans, one of the founders of Blacknerdproblems.com who ruins your childhood with his recent article on why Simba is trash. Here's what they had to say about first venues, pop culture, Disney movies, and ridding the world of problems!
Q: Where was the first venue at which you ever performed your poetry?
Chanel Dupree: The first venue I performed at was the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. I was eighteen years old and there was a college slam happening. I had never performed any writing of mine and decided "what the hell". I actually won. Little did I know two years later that would be the exact venue at which I would have my first feature.
William Evans: A show called Mahogany Soul, which later turned into Black Pearl Poetry in 2005 in a venue called The Brownstone.
Q: When you aren’t writing poetry, what are you doing?
Chanel Dupree: I teach theater and creative writing at an after school program. So when I'm not writing poetry, I am trying not to kill my kids while consistently letting them know that their voices are hella necessary. I've also just recently found my own personal acts of self-care. Roller-skating in Brooklyn with a group of my closest friends is the best smile I ever get. It actually helps with me with my writing.
William Evans: Chasing my daughter around, trying not to drive my wife crazy and running the website Blacknerdproblems.com
Q: What is one piece of pop culture that you just cannot get on board with?
Chanel Dupree: Any memes degrading black women can honestly kiss my a**. I'll never be down with it!
William Evans: 98% of Network TV Dramas. And also emojis.
Q: What is your proudest achievement thus far?
Chanel Dupree: I think my proudest accomplishment would have to be when I got the opportunity to teach a workshop on Black Femininity and Cultural Appropriation at St. John Fisher College. I did a performance at Pink Door 2015 writing retreat reading about Kylie Jenner and her extreme interest in becoming a black woman. A woman saw me in the audience, loved my piece and asked me to conduct a workshop based around that topic. There was only one black woman in the class; everyone else was woman. The workshop was close to Halloween, I asked the students beforehand to look up "racist Halloween costumes" on Google and print them out. The entire class was extremely shocked, saddened and in disbelief. We had a lengthy conversation about the many black face costumes we saw depicting black women as anything but themselves. I then asked the class to write down something that is so dear to them, something that has truly shaped them to the person they are. Some people wrote some extremely personal things, they took those writings and put them into a huge bowl and everyone in the class got to pick randomly. They each picked someone else's writing and had to write a poem, story or essay speaking of someone else's personal testimony as their own without giving credit to it's previous owner and recite it. The entire class felt it to their core. I had never felt so proud in my life, I got a room full of women that probably would have never understood my day-to-day struggle to open up their eyes and see what it is like.
William Evans: Besides marrying an incredible woman and fathering the Avatar, I think to date, holding a book that I produced and felt proud of creating is my proudest achievement.
Q: What does poetry mean to you, personally?
Chanel Dupree: I am a very visual person and poetry is the only way I can show my insides in images.
William Evans: Poetry, to me, is the great chasm between what I know and what I have no idea about. It is the feathers of a bird I can't confirm exists. Poetry is where I believe in things I wish I could wrap my arms around or the things I draw ribbons around that I wish I could forget.
Q: If you could rid the world of one major issue in society today, what would it be and why?
Chanel Dupree: Black lives not mattering in this country and if I can slip this in, black women deaths/lives not being fought for. We do so much and no one even blinks an eye.
William Evans: I think the fear of confronting what is uncomfortable. A lot of laws, stipulations or behaviors that are popularized in society come from people not willing to confront what makes them uncomfortable or they feel puts them in an undesirable light.
Q: All time favorite Disney movie and why?
Chanel Dupree: Mulan was my sh*t! That girl was so d*mn strong, vulnerable, funny and dignified. It was the first time as a kid that I had ever seen a layered female character. And all top of all of that she could literally kick anyone's a**. I loved it.
William Evans: Mulan. I still rank her as the best hero that Disney has produced.
Q: In fifteen years, where do you see yourself?
Chanel Dupree: In fifteen years, I see myself being a show runner, writing for at least two other shows, developing a media writing company for POC. I also see myself with a few books published. And most importantly, so at peace internally and externally that I can hardly stop smiling.
William Evans: Still writing. Hopefully steadily better than I currently am.
Q: Anything else (poems, links, comments, etc)?
Chanel Dupree: Thank you so much for this! Too often in life we are so busy trying to survive that it's so surprising when someone wants to know what's inside of our heads.
William Evans: If my poetry fails you, it's because I've been pouring my energy into other nerdier aspects: Blacknerdproblems.com