#MEFIRST SERIES FEATURED POWERHOUSE
Please tell us about your own self-love journey! What did you learn about yourself in the process?
Rabih: My journey began while studying abroad in Cuba. My experience was pretty intense: I was sick two days after arriving, later robbed in the barrio I was living in, and lost a loved one just an island away in the D.R. These experiences truly tested my strength, my faith, and resilience. But I was able to push through with prayers and poetry. Upon my return, I was blessed with a book entitled, “Salt” by Nayyirah Waheed. In my poem “Tenderness,” I thank Nayyirah for her ability to model the ways in which a writer can engage in healing through literature.
In her poetry, I could hear the ocean coming to shore
the same way I began to
hear my higher self coming home on to shore
she taught me that salt water healed wounds
old and new
That my body was like soil
held nutrients in every pore
to sprout out new crops each spring
Nayyirah’s work illuminates the deep connection between self-love and healing. Today, my work focuses on utilizing poetry as a modality of engaging in introspective processes and acts as a foundation for collective dreaming.
In continuing your journey of self-love, how do you prioritize yourself in the midst of the many hats you wear?
Rabih: My day begins with prioritizing my mind, body, and spirit through a holistic meditation. This process starts in the shower where I center and refresh my spirit. I perform my morning prayer, Fajir, light incenses, push open my curtains to let the sun in, crack open my window and prepare for a 10 minute yoga exercise. I engage in movement and breathing to awaken my body for the day. I pick up a piece of writing to read, either from “The Prophet” by Khalil Gibran or “Acts of Faith: Daily Meditations for People of Color” by Iyanla Vanzant. I conclude by writing in my journal to reflect or to pour my spirit into a new poem.
The remainder of my day is filled with educating black and brown girls in East Harlem. After work, I’m either on my way home to spend time with my family, partner, or more recently to Poets House as an Emerging Writers Fellow. When I get home, I light a candle, take my evening shower and catch up on prayers I've missed throughout the day. Some nights I journal and more recently I have been obsessed with the telenovela “Sin Senos No Hay Paraiso.” I love to travel, so through this show I’m able to escape to Colombia for a few hours and be entranced by the constant climaxes in EVERY SINGLE EPISODE. Y’all should check it out!
Where do you find inspiration?
Rabih: My world encompasses recollections of my Black girlhood and is in constant gravitation to the stories of other Black girls like and unlike me. As the only girl in my nuclear family, I’ve always felt misunderstood and othered. But through the raspy soul of Jazmine Sullivan, the legends told in Lauryn Hill’s bars, the incense smoking from Erykah Badu’s tracks, the New Yorker in Elizabeth Acevedo’s words, and the homes in the stutters of Sonia Sanchez, I am able to live in a world unlike any other.
Rabih Ahmed is a Ghanaian- American poet, performer, and entrepreneur from the Bronx, NY. She has performed her poetry at the renowned Apollo Theatre, Nuyorican Poets Cafe, and at various college campuses across New York State. She is a graduate with a B.A in Political Science from SUNY New Paltz. Her work was first recognized by the Department of Education in the Nelson Mandela Legacy Writing Contest. As a winner of this contest, she was commissioned to Johannesburg, South Africa where she met with former president, Nelson Mandela.
Inspired by the legacy of Mandela, Rabih’s work exemplifies the responsibility of the artist to shift norms of apathy and to unify Afro-Diasporic communities. Her work is grounded within the rhythms and histories of the African Diaspora, bridging lost narratives across the Atlantic. Rabih has traveled throughout the Caribbean, South America & Africa, performing her work in the Dominican Republic, Brazil and Cuba.
Artist & Creator of LOVE. LIGHT & POETRY
It is often those journeys of self-love that lead us to come into our own. Does your journey inspire your work with LOVE LIGHT & POETRY?
Rabih: LOVE LIGHT & POETRY (LLP) was born under the metamorphosis I went under after returning from Cuba and completing my undergraduate degree at SUNY New Paltz. I graduated without a job lined up, returned back to my neighborhood, and felt like everything was frozen in time. I grew so much in four years that I was faced with what I and other recent graduates referred to as post-graduate depression.
I decided (more like God forced me) to take the remainder of the year off to figure out what career path to pursue. I spent four months interviewing lawyers, folks in non-profits, and writers to figure out how everyone else decided what path to take. Simultaneously, I was performing poems at open mics and picking up a few features here and there.
It wasn’t until I had lunch with a mentor from New Paltz, where I reckoned with my fears of becoming a writer. I realized much of my concerns were self-imposed and were products of capitalism. I was haunted by the thoughts of providing for myself, my family, and elevating us out of the “struggle.” But, all along I knew I wanted to be a writer.
LLP was born as a blog in 2017. Four months after publicly sharing my work, I was asked to perform at the Apollo twice and the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. I think God wanted to see if I believed in myself first. It was obvious many others did. More than anything now, I know this is my destined path.
Can you give the beautiful soul reading this interview a piece of advice?
Rabih: Let go of the weight that no longer serves you and seek the assistance you need. Personally, I’ve only began doing this through therapy. As a result of intergenerational traumas, there is a constant weight I feel as a Black woman in the Americas. But there are days where I say “to hell with this." Systems of dehumanization were created by humans. Therefore, I can reimagine and manifest the world I want to live in. It is important to trust our inner powers and capabilities to create new worlds for ourselves. This is especially made possible when you surround yourself with individuals that are visionaries and can aid in elevating through your healing process. Behind each of my responses there were individuals that came to mind that either held my hand, wiped my tears, offered me books to read, and tips to incorporate in my meditations. I am only a product of my community that models what a decolonized world can look like.
I believe that you can do the same just begin to hone into your magic.
I don't know about you, but I had goosebumps after reading this interview with Rabih. Wouldn't you agree?
Learn more about her and her business by visiting her website: https://www.artistrybyrabih.com, check out her insightful posts on Instagram, follow her story on Facebook, and please do yourself a favor and watch her artistry via Youtube!
Thank you for shining your light on us, Rabih!