Deconstructing Ethnic and Gendered Power Relations in Elizabeth Acevedo’s slam poems “Hair”, “Afro-Latina”, “Spear” & “Unforgettable”

Heleni Smuha
Deze scriptie biedt een analyse van vier slam gedichten geschreven door de Amerikaans-Dominicaanse Elizabeth Acevedo. In haar literatuur kaart Acevedo de moeilijkheden aan waarmee leden uit haar minderheidsgroep geconfronteerd worden: Afro-Latinx vrouwen in de Westerse wereld.

Slam poetry; de stem van de ongehoorden

U kent ze wel, die hippe mensen die in de coffeeshop om de hoek samenkomen en beurtelings eigen geschreven gedichten voordragen, waarna het enthousiaste publiek een winnaar uitroept. Slam poetry – of slam poëzie – is ongetwijfeld aan een opmars bezig in het Westen.

Deze hedendaagse poëzievorm grijpt terug naar de wortels van de poëzietraditie, waarbij het orale aspect opnieuw centraal komt te staan. De twintigste eeuw kende al meerdere artistieke bewegingen waarin ‘performance poetry’ herleefde. Denk maar aan Walt Whitman's poëzie lezingen, of de gedichten van de Beatniks. Slam poëzie zelf ontstond echter pas in de jaren tachtig van de vorige eeuw, toen een Amerikaanse bouwvakker, Mark Smith, de eerste slam poëzie sessie organiseerde in een jazz café in Chicago. Sindsdien werden in crescendo slams georganiseerd, waarin opvallend veel minderheidsgroepen sociale problematieken aankaarten en met elkaar in debat treden aan de hand van ritmische samenstellingen van woorden.

In de scriptie “Deconstructing Ethnic and Gendered Power Relations in Elizabeth Acevedo’s slam poems ‘Hair’, ‘Afro-Latina’, ‘Spear’ & ‘Unforgettable’” worden vier slam gedichten van Elizabeth Acevedo – een jonge Noord-Amerikaanse slam poet van Afro-Dominicaanse origine – uitvoerig geanalyseerd. Slam poëzie is voor Acevedo – net als voor vele andere leden van minderheidsgroepen – dé manier om letterlijk en figuurlijk haar stem hoorbaar te maken. Haar gedichten kaarten voornamelijk de onrechtvaardigheden en identiteitscrisissen aan waarmee jonge Amerikaanse vrouwen behorend tot de Afro-Latino gemeenschap geconfronteerd worden. Vrouwen, Latinos en Afrikanen ondergaan al eeuwenlang een proces van onderdrukking. Acevedo roept niet enkel op om deze onderdrukking te bestrijden, maar formuleert zelf ook voorstellen om de blank-bevoorrechte patriarchie af te schaffen.

Naast de prachtige en beklijvende beschrijvingen over persoonlijke ervaringen van gender en etnische discriminatie, pleit de schrijfster in haar poëzie voor een heropleving van inheemse tradities en cultuur. Vele mensen uit etnisch-benadeelde gemeenschappen die naar de Verenigde Staten migreren vervangen hun originele culturele tradities namelijk snel met die van de Amerikanen. Dit proces van assimilatie zou volgens Acevedo discriminatie in stand houden, omdat de taal en cultuur van de niet-dominante groep dan als minderwaardig worden ervaren. Acevedo’s teksten wijzen onder andere op de gezaghebbende rol van scholen en de media in de creatie en verspreiding van gender en etnische stereotypen, alsook op de even belangrijke invloed die zij kunnen hebben om de aanzet te geven tot een positieve herevaluering van minderheden.

In de literair-academische wereld wordt slam poëzie vandaag nog vaak als marginale literatuur gezien. Daarbovenop blijft kunst van vrouwen – in het bijzonder vrouwen met Afrikaanse roots – dikwijls ongehoord en ondergewaardeerd. Dit onderzoek wil daar verandering in brengen en toont de kracht van dit literair genre aan de hand van vier straffe gedichten die een ultra-relevant discours tot stand brengen, vooral in ons hedendaags Trump tijdperk.

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Universiteit of Hogeschool
Taal-en Letterkunde: Engels-Spaans
Publicatiejaar
2017
Promotor(en)
Elizabeth Bekers
Kernwoorden