About the Interview:
I interviewed Dwayne Morgan in July 31st, 2016. It was our first interview. He visited Ghana a few weeks after, attending the Chale Wote Festival. I had the privilege to host him in our library. In this second part of our interview, I sought to ask him about his experience(s) while in Ghana, about his new book, and the key topics he often tackles in his poetry. You can find all about our first interview here: https://geosireads.wordpress.com/2016/07/31/interview-with-jamaican-canadian-poet-speaker-entrepreneur-dwayne-morgan/
Geosi Gyasi: I will begin from where we left off from our first interview. In just a paragraph, could you describe your experience while in Ghana?
Dwayne Morgan: I had a great time in Ghana. It felt a lot more comfortable than I had expected. Everything looked and felt like Jamaica to me. The people that I met were great, and I can’t wait to return to learn and experience more.
Geosi Gyasi: Moving on, what motivated you to write, “No Apologies”?
Dwayne Morgan: My book, No Apologies, is a collection of poems, primarily, but not exclusively about race, and the realities faced by people of colour living in North America. With everything that is happening in the world, I felt it timely to create a collection that gave some insight in to what life is really like for those of us in the diaspora.
Geosi Gyasi: Could you comment on the following lines from your poem, “I Cried”?
“The place where higher education/Doesn’t guarantee you a job/And sports and entertainment/Seem like you’re only options/If your skin is of a darker hue.”
Dwayne Morgan: There is a false belief that is perpetuated in North America, and that is that all people are created equally. Intellectually, we know this, however, in reality, for people of colour, graduating from university doesn’t guarantee you a job, because you still have to overcome social barriers like racism, geography, and socio-economic status. For many in North America, who are of colour, the feeling is that the only way to get out of your living situation is through music or hip hop, so we see mass amounts of Black people in these areas. We also see this in Jamaica, where music or sports seem to be the only way out, and this scenario repeats itself all over the globe for people of colour who are seeking upward mobility.
Geosi Gyasi: In another poem, “Get In the Game”, the speaker asks an important question from the beginning lines. I put the same question to you: “Why are the black poets so aggressive/And always talking about race?”
Dwayne Morgan: I can only speak about the poets in North America who experience race on a daily basis. When you live your life with your voice being silenced, there is a passion that floods out of you, when you have the opportunity to speak. When your life sees injustice on a daily basis, simply because of the colour of your skin, race becomes a
necessary topic of discussion. If it is not spoken about, then the likelihood of things changing is nil.
Geosi Gyasi: Is there any distinguishing feature between a spoken word artist and a musician?
Dwayne Morgan: Well, a musician plays an instrument that is external to themselves, while a spoken word artist uses their voice as their instrument. Both understand rhythm, pacing, and the relationship between melody and silence.
Geosi Gyasi: In April 2016 at a Ted event in Oshawa, Ontario, you talked about how proud you are to be black. How does it feel like to be black in Canada?
Dwayne Morgan: It’s very hard to describe what it feels like to be Black in Canada, because I don’t have anything else to compare it to. My parents, growing up in Jamaica, didn’t really pay attention to the colour of their skin, until they arrived in Canada, and it was pointed out to them, so their orientation to race is very different from mine, as one born in Canada, which is still plagued with inequalities simply based on attributes that one had no control over. I have learned to be proud of who I am, which is a feat, when it is reinforced that people who look like me have contributed little to this, and world societies. I choose to look at the history of Black people, see all of the things that we have done, and understand myself to be part of that legacy, as such, I have work to do to ensure that I help to move things forward.
Geosi Gyasi: Having published a number of books, do you think “Long Overdue” is your most popular book by far?
Dwayne Morgan: Based on sales, Long Overdue and Everyday Excellence are at the top of the list. Long Overdue was my first full collection of poetry. I think that it’s still popular today, because people like to go to the beginning to see where things started. From there, they can explore other collections, and see how the work has changed over the years.
Geosi Gyasi: Which writers/artists have had profound influence on your career as a spoken-word artist?
Dwayne Morgan: My work has been inspired by the likes of Miss Lou and Mutabaruka out of Jamaica. People like Bob Marley, R. Kelly, and Prince, have also been very influential in terms of my work, and the way that I approach my career.
Geosi Gyasi: Quite a number of your work touches on social issues like family violence, racism and drug use. Why is that so?
Dwayne Morgan: Being able to write and have people read your work is a privilege, so I have a responsibility to raise awareness about issues that aren’t often spoken about. It is very easy to pretend as though these things don’t exist. When I write about them, I give them life, and allow people to see and experience them through my lens.
Geosi Gyasi: In 2008, you hosted the photography exhibit, “The Sum of Her Parts”. Tell me more about this?
Dwayne Morgan: For some time, The Sum of Her Parts has been a crowd favourite. The poem looks at women and body image through the male lens, acknowledging the roles we play in helping to shape how women see themselves. I am always looking for new ways to express my art, so I decided to take pictures that went with the poem. These pictures later became an exhibit, which now lives online: https://youtu.be/vsXrJeLmIdE
Geosi Gyasi: You recently organized the 1st Annual Heart of a Woman Showcase. I am interested to know what it was all about?
Dwayne Morgan: The heArt of A Woman is a showcase that I conceptualized and produced to create more opportunity for female artists. The performing arts tend to be very male dominated, and I know the value in creating spaces where women can share openly, without feeling as though they have to be competing with men. The show featured spoken word, reggae, hip hop, folk, soul, and was a beautiful night to behold.
Geosi Gyasi: Do you care to end the interview?
Dwayne Morgan: I suppose the interview ends when the last question is answered. If there are more questions, then there’ll be a part three. For now, thank you for your interest in me and my work.