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Keisha Thompson

Keisha Thompson is a Manchester based writer, performance artist and producer. She is also the Artistic Director and CEO of Contact theatre, Manchester, Chair of radical arts funding body, Future’s Venture Foundation, an ITC board member and recipient of The Arts Foundation Theatre Makers Award 2021. Before embarking on her role at Contact, Keisha was Senior Learning Programme Manager for The World Reimagined, a national arts education programme promoting racial justice. She holds a degree in Philosophy and Politics from the University of Manchester, and a PGCE in Mathematics.


My talk is on the Kwanzaa principle: Kujichagulia – Self-Determination


Oysters

You are in the top ten

percentile of the country

the world is your oyster

I never thought it wasn’t

until he stated the obvious

this Old Boy was trying to

tell me something

it wasn’t that I deserved

to go to Cambridge

neither was it that I should

apply to a girls’ college

they have a higher

ethnic minority population

it was that oysters are

expensive, Latin-bone grey

not very tasty

why should I want my world

to be an oyster?


  • We have to be aware of the labels that may be pinned on us in order to navigate them / decide if they can be useful to us

  • People will place their expectations on us. It is good to be aware of any stereotypes that may be linked to those.

  • This poem is about the way that I was encouraged to apply to Cambridge during my time at college. It appeared that it was because I was gifted and talented according to the statistics but it became apparent that it would look good for the college to send a black girl from South Manchester. They did not think about what I wanted, what impact it would have on my family, they did not consider the culture shock I would have to experience (I got a flavour at the interview) and they did not talk about the drop-out rates or other "flaws" attached to the Oxbridge experience.


Challenge and Perseverance


Fib 13 - Timbuktu

Your • god • exists • without

you • our history • will not

numbers don’t need us to

• count them but who will

count you as you freefall

backwards • into your

scriptures

I can no longer sit in a church

as they name the creator •

papier-mache sacred pages

until they have sculpted

themselves pronounced the

unknown harmonised their

ignorance

like the many • who believe

that Timbuktu did not exist

Black Excellence is the butt

of a joke - a lyric in a racist

song - greatness reduced

to myth. Can we be better

than this? You taught me to

question without questioning yourself.


  • After the awareness of yourself and how you are perceived in the world, you then have to challenge those things. Question what has been fed to you. Question the status quo.

  • This poem is about my relationship with my dad and religion. He was a Christian and converted to Islam so I had religion pressed upon me two-fold. As I got older, I started to question the ideas I had been fed and where they came from.

  • Sometimes taking this path can be lonely and not provide much in the way of immediate gratification but it is about thinking in the long-run.


Curiosity and Imagination


Alchemy

What is it about gold

for years you’ve tried to explain

one part of me edges forward

a child at the zoo feeding the manatees

you say this life is an acid test

just words to a girl looking at the sun for too long

when no one is listening you call yourself

Mansa Musa - clambering up your isoceles of hope

your ash-mouth your greying corona I want to call you

dandelion. A glowing rebellion to those who call you for superstition.

I am waiting eyes squinted for the day when you will blind me - extract the self

from the doubt: become light become red become dawn become aurum.

Aurum.

Au.


  • After challenging, there will be clear space for you to refill. A blank canvas ready for self-definition.

  • This requires curiosity and imagination. It is a continuous journey.

  • Often the word imagination is treated as something to be associated with childhood that is a frivolous thing. However, I am aware that my imagination is skill. I have the ability to see an alternative reality and share that with others.

  • This poem pays homage to my dad and his wonderful obsession with alchemy - making gold out of base metal. I strive every day to become a better version of myself. Use the things that have been handed to me and turn them into gold.

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