When Poetry Meets Activism: In Conversation with Aminah Rahman

When Poetry Meets Activism: In Conversation with Aminah Rahman

Having a voice gives a person power. I have three older brothers and I am the only daughter in my family. This makes me feel more determined to make sure my voice is heard. Women can build confidence by using their voice. We need to be at the forefront and not behind. It is important that we keep moving forward because our voices deserve to be heard.

– Aminah Rahman

In today’s world, the literary scene has shown us beyond words, what our voices can do for us. They not only help us to comprehend and appreciate the world around us, they are also powerful mechanisms for critiquing conventions and pushing for positive change. One of the most welcome surprises of the 21st century has been the explosion of Muslim women’s voices in resistance. Amongst all social literary movements, spoken-word poetry stands out as one of the most gripping tools for transformation. For many Muslim women around the world, poetry takes the shape of protest and dialogue but for Aminah Rahman, an award-winning poet and spoken word artist, poetry is the heartbeat of change.

Aminah Rahman is a seventeen-year-old award-winning poet and spoken word artist born and raised in Cambridge, UK. She is a third-generation British-Bangladeshi with over 60 years of family history in Cambridge. Aminah wrote her first poetry collection ‘Poems by Aminah’ in 2016. She then wrote Soul Change, her next collection of poems about social issues that affect humanity today. Five of Aminah’s poems have been published in Young Writers UK anthologies. Aminah is featured in the June 2020 edition of Writing Magazine, the UK’s biggest and bestselling magazine for writers, where she talks about her passion for poetry. Aminah was also recognised as one of the ‘Top 6 Most Influential Muslim Youth’ in Hayati Magazine, Nigeria.

She was the winner of the Young Muslim Writers Awards Key Stage 2 Poetry category in 2015. In 2017, she was the joint winner of the Cambridge News and Media Education Awards: Pupil of the Year award. She also took part in the BBC Upload Festival 2020, a festival that showcases talent from across England and the Channel Islands. Aminah represented Cambridgeshire with her poem ‘Please’. She has spoken at numerous events, actively promoting inclusion and diversity.

To find out more about how Aminah uses her voice as an instrument of change, TMWT had a chat with her and here’s what she had to say:

TMWT: You have many achievements and accolades to your name. How did you get your start with spoken word poetry? Were you into poetry as a child?

Aminah Rahman: I’ve been writing poetry since I was eight years old. I remember when I was in an English lesson and we were studying poetry, and I instantly fell in love with it. I loved the rhythm and style. My journey officially began when I won the Key Stage 2 Poetry category of the Young Muslim Writers Awards in 2015. I gained confidence and I knew that I wanted to continue writing. I’ve also loved being on stage from a young age. Over the past few years, I have performed at many events, actively promoting inclusion and diversity. 

TMWT: Your poems range from themes about identity, racism and social justice, what has motivated you to cover such a wide range of topics?

Aminah Rahman: I write about a wide range of topics because I want to write for everybody. I want everyone to connect with my words and I also want to provide a sense of comfort for people. Celebrating our identity and fighting against racism is important to me. As I’ve grown up, I’ve realised that I am who I am and it is my duty to celebrate that. I am unapologetically me.

Aminah Rahman

TMWT: What is it about poetry that intrigues you and What poets have inspired you in the past? 

Aminah Rahman: Poetry is intriguing because there is so much to explore. For me, poetry is a powerful gift as it addresses feelings that can be hard to describe. Writing and performing poetry enables me to process my thoughts and feelings, and it brings us together. I am inspired by Amanda Gorman – she reminds me that the power of words is so strong. She encourages us to stand together and be united. She inspires me to use my voice and be heard.

TMWT: In what ways do you think your voice as a poet can inspire and empower women to experience growth

Aminah Rahman: Poetry inspires women, as well as myself, to experience growth as writing poetry lets me express myself, whilst reading and performing poetry encourages people find meaning. It allows us to grow as it may offer a new way of thinking about something and perceptions can be changed. 

TMWT: Would you say that your religion and South-Asian heritage have made your work stand out?

Aminah Rahman: Being a British-Bangladeshi, Muslim poet has attracted attention. I wanted to do something different. Ethnic minorities are sometimes underrepresented in the creative sector. I hope to lead the way and inspire other young girls to write. 

TMWT: How does the spoken word scene compare with other social literary movements?

Aminah Rahman: I think that the spoken word is different and unique, compared to other social literary movements. It empowers voices through verse. It’s expressive and free. Being able to perform to an audience creates a sense of unity which is so special and heartwarming. 

TMWT: It may be difficult to pick just one but if you could pick the first one that comes to mind, which achievement in your career or personal endeavours holds the most sentimental value to you and why?

Aminah Rahman: My rap ‘Accept Me Please’ holds the most sentimental value to me because this was the first rap that I wrote. When I wrote this, I knew that I wanted to perform it – that’s when I knew that I wanted to be on stage and transform my written poetry into spoken word. This rap also made me realise that my identity is something to appreciate, and this applies to everyone! We should all be proud of who we are.

TMWT: You’re a perfect example of a young woman who is combining her talent and skills with social activism. What is your advice for any young woman who wants to follow your path?

Aminah Rahman: Thank you so much! I would say just write. Everyone has their own individual, unique stories to tell, so just get out there. Instead of waiting for change, be the change — be loud and clear, and most importantly, be you.


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