In May 2022, Simone was part of Leeds 2023’s ‘Chai & Chat’. The project was a series of 3 roundtable discussions at The Tetley with artists, cultural leaders and educators led by the Leeds 5 – a group of Black and Brown female leaders working throughout the arts in Leeds and Sheffield.
The aim of the project was to facilitate difficult conversations around systemic inequalities in the arts and education. The 3 discussions were titled:
- Conversation 1: Challenging the Status Quo
- Conversation 2: New Voices in Creative Industries
- Conversation 3: Education
Learn more about the project here.
Read extracts from each of the poems Simone produced below:
Burn that into your psyche (Conversation 1)
“How can we build entire cities with our stories,
whilst those native to the cities country,
don’t want us here?
So we build our own spaces
and we carry our stories with us.
Spaces where we don’t have to be
Spaces where we can have conversations with no
Spaces we have forged with our bare Black and Brown hands,
the same hands that have plait hair and painted mehendi.
Spaces that do not exist to generate for the hierarchy.“
Intention (Conversation 2)
‘How have you managed to survive?’,
As though we had a choice,
any other choice,
but to pave the way.
To curl tightly our toes around the rungs of the ladders that were thrown to us
Scurry, without a second thought,
knowing that if they thought for too long,
if they sat with the discomfort for too long,
they’d drag the floor from beneath our feet.
In constant survival mode,
equipped with ancestral coping mechanisms,
but no generational healing ones.”
What do you need? (Conversation 3)
“Scared to let you do anything twice,
scared you’ll create new traditions.
But you will.
You will get your seats,
and receive your accolades.
Forcing cracks into gatekept places,
building your stories into their seams,
never appeasing with words,
rooting deep into the spine.”