“I always have a hard time writing about myself. It’s easier to tell someone else’s story and I’m still trying to convince my shadow that it chose me for a reason,” Ebony Stewart said in her opening piece Nov. 6 in the Parkway Ballroom with an intimate crowd of around 35 people.
Ebony Stewart aka “The Gully Princess” and “She’ll eat your cupcake” is a touring performance artist and slam poet. Among many other accolades, she was recently crowned co-champion of the 2017 Women of the World Poetry Slam.
Stewarts’ poetry explores a broad range of emotions: melancholy, joy, vulnerability and pain.
“I just try to pay attention to how I feel and what I hear, and what I like and what I don’t like,” Stewart said.
Stewart also draws inspiration from her life experiences. Stewart was a sexual health educator for sixth and seventh grade students for two years. Some of the lines in her “Anonymous Box Questions a 6th Grade Boys Class Asks Their Sex Ed Teacher” were outrageously funny.
Questions like, “Miss Ebony, can a girl get pregnant if I put my peter in her ear?” There were also more tender questions like, “Why does liking the color pink make me gay, and if I am, is it bad?”
Stewart passed around a box so the audience could ask for her advice on sex, relationships, poetry and life. Stewart took the time to answer each of the anonymous questions like:
“How do you feel about vibrators?”
“Why do guys like to suck on boobs so much?”
“When did you figure out that poetry was your passion?”
Stewart started writing poetry when she was 8 years old so she could cope with witnessing her dad abusing her mom, which was referenced in the first poem of her set.
“Poetry was an outlet for me, it was a way for me to get my thoughts and feelings out so I wouldn’t become what I was seeing my dad be,” Stewart said. “It’s kinda like breathing, and even when I don’t want to or I don’t have anything to write, things pop up in my head.”
Kelsey Lam, junior psychology major, was the Cultural Awareness Student Engagement chairperson who booked Stewart.
“Being chairperson, I wanted somebody influential and somebody who could do something to this campus and for this campus, and I thought Ebony was perfect,” Lam said.
Lam first saw Stewart perform at App State two years ago, and has been a fan ever since.
“To hear you do your thing on stage live, it’s so surreal to me,” Lam said. “I’m glad everyone else enjoyed it, but being a little selfish, I couldn’t have ended my semester any better.”
Ebony said App State was welcoming and progressive.
“It’s a campus that wants to do better, that wants to be productive and make real changes, not just in the classroom, but they really think about how to shape a person and what they’re experiencing and to talk about things that they wouldn’t normally talk about,” Stewart said.
Stewart handled the rough day of travel she had—waking up at 4:30 a.m. and having to go to four different airports—with positivity.
“I bring you love, and exhaustion, and swag from Texas,” Stewart said. “I want to make sure that, regardless, that we have a good show.”
Stewart was supposed to start at 7 p.m., but because of flight cancellations, she went on at 8:30 p.m. Based on the audience’s laughter and snaps of affirmation, Stewart’s set was worth the wait.
Stewart closed her set with an ode to her mother.
“My mother keep the moon in her eyes, so everything is an ocean, and I am her sky. I learned the ways of her waves, her ripple, mimic her seas. I pray to God if I ever have children, my mother is the kind of mother I plan to be,” Stewart said.
You can watch videos of Ebony Stewart’s spoken word on Button Poetry, Write About Now Poetry and Poetry Slam Inc.
Story by Christine Dudley, A&E Reporter