– Christena AV Williams
Shabdashikha: Let’s start our conversation from your daily activities. In which affairs are you busy now a days?
Christena AV Williams: Now a days I am busy with schooling, that is I attend the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica. My area of studies is History which requires a great deal of time and critical thinking. However, I am a part of a youth organization, (Positive. org); this is youth advocacy through volunteerism. Also, occasionally I perform poetry at various events.
Shabdashikha: What compels you to write?
Christena AV Williams: The truth is I began writing at age ten, which I have not ceased from doing ever since, however what led me to write was that as a child there was an adrenaline rush to do so as result of emotions. Why I write? I realize that my words have power because I saw for myself how it impacted individuals first hand. I am compelled to write because there is so much that I want to say and hope that I could inspire someone wherever they are of any walks of life. I hope to uplift and educate people about roots and culture and I want to be free because when I write I share parts of me very personal and I want to write for the voiceless and the hopeless. I also write because I see my work as a form of protest art, Yes, I see my work as a weapon of social transformation. I write because I have been through a lot even with my few years on earth and I want to connect to people that we can highlight the human strength and weakness. There is so much that compels me to write because I am surrounded by beauty and destructions and I am bless with this gift and I know that I must use it for good. So I write because it is a gift and I am inspired to write and motivated to inspire people so that they can inspire others.
Shabdashikha: Would you describe something of your background of coming to literary field?
Christena AV Williams: Well, I am from Jamaica which is a very expressive and cultural country. It is such a great and beautiful country as it is well known for its language, music, art, food, people, sports and so much more. I grew up listening Jamaican oldies, reggae, and souls. So music was very influential but also hearing about Mutabaruka and Louise Bennett Coverley who are well known poets. When at school we had to perform these poems which I liked very much. However, a part from having a gift of writing I believe it was recognized because I would read a lot which led me to write. I was very shy but my mom would tell me to read my poems for her friends so unknowingly I was becoming brave. The moment that I best remember is a friend of my mom’s she began crying when she read, “ I rise” a poem that I wrote which was inspired by the late Dr. Maya Angelou. From there on I realized that there was something special but what really plunged me into writing is when I won a talent competition in my community. I was continuously empowered and motivated by this achievement but most importantly was what I was going through. I was what some would call poor as life was very tough and there was such much things happening and even though as child or a teenage I understood what was happening. So I began writing down these emotions also things I saw around me happening to others. Writing became a friend and a release or a gateway to express my reality. Writing allows me the opportunity write down dreams and aspirations as well as sharing my culture with the world.
Shabdashikha: What is your purpose of writing literature?
Christena AV Williams: Purpose suggest destiny. So God would not grant me a gift if it was not my purpose to write. Thus, my purpose of writing is because God had destined it. Purpose because I have the opportunity to write my story, your story and our story. Therefore, to be truth in writing, voice for the voiceless, inspiring hope for hopeless, challenging stagnant regimes, doctrines and injustice. Purpose to bring laughter, tears, inspiration, comfort, healing and to share self consciousness. Writing makes me feel free because I am not restricted in thoughts, opinions and I am here as an advocate for positive transformation for my country, people and the world at large.
Shabdashikha: Can literature become the weapon of social transformation?
Christena AV Williams: Literature is already a weapon of social transformation and should continue to do so. Literature has always been a phenomenon if you research you will recognize that some of the most famous intellectuals of our times were also writers. It was poetry and sayings during slavery that had an impact on the slaves as they would dance, sing and recite poetry. These artifacts have led us today to understand their mental capacity and creative ingenuity. Furthermore, the Harlem renaissance brought about poets such as Claude McKay and Langston Hughes as well as intellectuals such as Dubois, Marcus Garvey. Thus, showing how these individuals were impactful on their country and other countries. Marcus Garvey was a writer and pan Africanist who spread back to Africa movement embedded in Rastafari philosophy which empowered black individuals to become self conscious. Notwithstanding that during civil rights movement it was speeches, letters and poetry as the medium at which people communicated. There fore, Literature have always been a weapon of social transformation it was also used by Steven Biko who constantly wrote and spoke about black beauty which resulted in the Soweto uprising. This is not to say that literature is the only factor but to acknowledge its impact. Hence, an impact by literature in my country was by Louise Bennett Coverley who pioneered our Creole dialect to the world through her poems which gave us a sense of identity and belonging. Subsequently literature has inspired music such as rap and reggae and movies as literature is vital to the survival of any society.
Shabdashikha: From the perspective of ideology, what type of literary wing or movement is dominant in your country now?
Christena AV Williams: Jamaica is an expressive and cultural nation. It has rich culture and is often displayed in competitions so the perspective of ideology I would say that being of African descent paves the way for consciousness of its people through Rastafari. Rastafari has impacted many advocates such as Bob Marley, Marcus Garvey, Mutabaruka, and Oku onuora who are writers. They mostly do poetry, dub poetry and Reggae which is a form of social advocacy. There is also extension to drama, plays, script writing, novels and other areas of literary writing.
Shabdashikha: What is poetry for you?
Christena AV Williams: Poetry is personal to me as it is my heart, mind, body and soul in other words it is vital to my survival. It is my medium of communication with the inner self and the world. Poetry is a revealer of self as you begin to know yourself or other writers sometimes by their writings. It is how I share my secrets, thoughts and personal experiences/others experiences as well as bringing awareness to issues. Poetry is comfort and my expressive right in freeing of my mind.
Shabdashikha: What type of books do you like to read and who are your favourite writers?
Christena AV Williams: Books I enjoy reading are like detective, adventures, History, philosophy, poetry, Thesaurus, dictionary, encyclopedia, literature. My favourite writers are Tupac shakur, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, Emily Dickson, and Louise Bennett Coverley.
Shabdashikha: What are you reading and writing now a days?
Christena AV Williams: My current readings are dictated by school so I am reading heavy literature on philosophy such as Kant and other philosophers. I am still finishing up on “I write what I like” by Steven Biko. Well, in terms of writing I am currently working on two new books, titles are: Out from Babylon system: liberation of mind, and There is go greater love than self- love. The first Book is about freeing of the mind and becoming conscious while the second is about loving the skin you are in. There is so much pressure on being someone you are not. Young girls and boys are forced to change themselves to fit society’s aesthetics. We have a huge problem in my country about skin tone and colour which result in skin bleaching. So what I am writing now is about love and appreciation for the human body, mind, heart and soul in its natural state.
Shabdashikha: Are you agreeing with the saying that literary writing is also a kind of politics?
Christena AV Williams: I am not sure if I agree or disagree as it is the first time I am reading such a saying. Politics is vital to society so is literary writing. Politics have different positions to be filled so do literary writing as it has different areas. It is also an art what I mean is it requires skills to convince people to believe what you are saying so does literary writing. This saying is new to me so I am not sure of its general perspective but I would say anything is capable to have politics inside it.
Shabdashikha: As a poet, what are the burning issues and problems which are becoming the subject matter of the opposition in the context of world and your own country?
Christena AV Williams: There are so much world wide problems and issues that pertain to Jamaica. Jamaica is not much different from any other country in the world. It is a third world country which is face with many challenges but notwithstanding what is happening in the world, Jamaica is exceeding in areas of education, health, sports , music, and art. Jamaica definitely can improve in several areas but base on how Jamaica was once a plantation colony it has lasting negative impacts that still affects us today. However, with that being said Jamaica’s problem and the world may have some similarities but not necessarily for the same reasons or at the degree at which the world is facing so I cannot compare the issues of Jamaica to world wide problems. World wide problems are much bigger and deeper than Jamaica’s issues.
Shabdashikha: What is the process of taking birth of poem within you?
Christena AV Williams: That is some what of a difficult question I mean I write only when inspired. I do not rush poetry or inspiration as whenever it come it comes and I act accordingly. I know when a poem is coming because I feel it inside of me. It is an uncontrollable rush that is how I explain it so I always have a pen and book. I am inspired by anyone and anything. A poem can come to me anytime and at any place. My process is natural it is when the poems comes to me then I release it.
Shabdashikha: Whose names would you like to take as your favourite old and new writers?
Christena AV Williams: Well as previously mention in another question my favourite writers are Tupac shakur, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, Emily Dickson, Louise Bennett Coverley and new writers would be Kolade Freedom, Daron Chosen Smith, Melisha N. Murrary, Kerione Bryan, Kei Miller and Alan Jankowski.
Shabdashikha: What are the weakness and strengths of new writers in your view ?
Christena AV Williams: The common weakness which I have and I think others would too is definitely grammar issues. Writing is so hard and frustrating because it commands a level of perfection. Some other issues are the confidence to write on different genres or themes. What I like about new writers is their unapologetic approach of styles. They are also very upbeat, creative, and versatile. So far the poems I am reading is nailing imagery and metaphor very well even some deep philosophical work.
Shabdashikha: What message would you like to give to our Nepalese writers?
Christena AV Williams: Most definitely, to keep writing and making your voices heard. Read a lot of other works because the more literature you are exposed to is the better your writing skills. Also, use social media to get your work out there and interact with other writers. Have fun with writing and share lessons you learn with others. Lastly, continue being an inspiration and stay bless.
Shabdashikha: What is your philosophy of life?
Christena AV Williams: Life is the greatest gift of all and it is always a blessing to wake up. I give thanks to the giver so I say live life that is pleasing to the creator. I love life and that is why I wish to see my people living in love. So live life to the fullest without any regrets and be a blessing to someone.
Shabdashikha: What is the greatest lesson which you got from your life experience?
Christena AV Williams: There are many lessons I have learnt from my life experiences so I would not say one is greater than the other. What I will say is do good that goodness and mercy shall follow you. Be the light in someone’s darkness because you might never know who will be the one to bless you. Do not take life and its blessings for granted because anything can happen and change in a split seconds. Also life has many roads taken and if you make a mistake do not stay down because that is when you are defeated as trial and failure is the gateway to success. In the end just be positive and be the best version of self that you may inspire someone. Life is a beautiful thing it is people who complicate a simple thing.
Christena AV Williams is a Jamaican award- winning author /poet/publisher and a History Major at the University of the West Indies, Mona. She wrote Pearls among stones, which is available on Amazon. Canadian Brian Wrixon in 2013 publish this collection of which earned her one of the most prestigious awards given to youths in her country, “The Prime Minister’s National youth awards for excellence in arts and culture.” This poet is an advocate for positive transformation of country, lives, and writes with passion and radical evoking feelings.