As part of the London Literature Festival and possibly Black History Month, it was ladies, or rather womxn night, last night at the Southbank Centre, as poetry and spoken word collective Heaux Noire introduced a selection of talented poets, singers and musicians to showcase their artistry.
Heaux Noire is the brainchild of founder Anita Barton-Williams, who founded the platform in 2015 out of frustration for the lack of representation at open mic nights in London. The aim is to represent all Black and Brown women regardless of sexuality or gender identity, hence the use of the relatively new but intersectional term womxn.
At Heaux Noire events, womxn share their stories through poetry, music and song, and sometimes all of the above. It’s fantastic to see such a space being carved out in the open-mic world, more so because it’s clearly not a one-off in aid of Black History Month but rather an ongoing thing, which is definitely needed.
Last night featured four artists: Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan whose poetry about race, Islamophobia and gender, in the words of one Twitter user ‘snatched the edges’ of the Southbank audience. She was followed by Neimo, a British Somali poet who gracefully delivered a beautiful and poignant poem about navigating her way through life as a partially deaf woman.
After a 15 minute musical interlude from DJ Empress of the Heaux Noire team, it was time for the last two acts of the evening. Jae Renee, a non-binary bundle of raw energy, and unapologetically Brummie (her words!) delighted the audience with their songs. Her track Reparations, performed alongside their producer Ayy, was undoubtedly their strongest if only for the line “I am grounded, protected and powerful”. Amen to that! Last, but by no means least was AGĀMA otherwise known as Cassandra Gurling, a multi-talented singer, composer, and songwriter. Weaving in some spoken word into her set, and speaking on the importance of calling out racism, AGĀMA’s searing vocals which clearly demonstrated her jazz influences, rounded off what was a very enjoyable evening.
For more information about Heaux Noire, you can follow on Twitter, @heauxnoire