BY Gabriela Laracca
On March 28 at 7 p.m. in MSU 183, the Association of Campus Events (ACE) will be hosting a campus-wide Poetry Slam with cash prizes for the top three contestants. The event will be hosted by internationally-known touring performance artist, writer, activist and sexual-health educator, Ebony Stewart a.k.a “The Gully Princess.”
According to Jon Goode, Emmy-Nominated Writer and Performer on HBO, CNN, BET, Centric, TVOne, Nick@Nite and TVLand, “Ebony’s work offers a unique balance, often sought but rarely found, in performance poetry. It can be both aggressive and subdued; tough and tender, in your face and subtly clever.” Stewart is an award-winning slam poet with a Bachelor’s in English and Communication Studies who has been making herself known throughout the Central Texas theater and poetry scenes for over a decade. She is also an original playwright known for her plays, Ocean and Hunger.
Ocean is a play dedicated to Yemayá: Goddess of the living ocean and ruler of the seas. Yemayá is observed in the religion of Santería (also known as Regla de Ochá, La Regla or Lucumí) which is often practiced throughout Central and South America, the Caribbean and Africa. Because water is essential to life, it is believed that Yemayá is a mother to all with a fierce yet maternal and nurturing spirit. “It is said, when we were stolen from our homeland and transported across the oceans in the Middle Passage, it was Yemayá who protected us. Once arrived on these shores, we were forbidden to practice our own religion,” reads Stewart’s website. “Ocean pays homage to African Spirituality by recognizing that these original teachings can aide us on the journey back to ourselves.”
Stewart’s website also describes Hunger as a means of helping the artist work through issues thrust upon her throughout her life. It gives her the opportunity to transform the area into a healing space. The site also described the show as “heavy, funny and moving as it takes you on the journey from girl to grown woman with stories and rhythmic poetry.”
Ocean landed her the 2017 Best of Austin: Best Actor/Actress Award, the 2016 B. Iden Payne Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in Drama and the 2017 B. Iden Payne Award for Outstanding Original Script. Hunger, which debuted in 2015, also landed her the 2014/2015 B. Iden Payne Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in Drama and the 2015/2016 Austin Critic’s Table David Mark Cohen New Play Award.
As a member of the 2010 Austin Neo Soul Team, Stewart placed fourth in the National Poetry Slam. She has also coached the first-place winning 2012 Neo Soul Team and the fifth-place winning 2015 Austin Poetry Slam Team in the National Poetry Slam. She is the only adult female, three-time Slam Champion in Austin. She has also been dubbed the Top Female Touring Poet by the Spoken Word Awards and the Co-Champion of the 2017 Women of the World Poetry Slam. Stewart’s works can be found published in Button Poetry, Write About Now Poetry, Poetry Slam Inc. as well as in several online magazines including For Harriet, Teen Vogue and the Texas Observer. Several poems she is known for include “Hairitage”, “Happy Father’s Day” and “This poem is about joy.”
First place will win $100, second will win $75 and third will win $50, sponsored by ACE, the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance (FMLA), Student Government Board (SGB) and the English Department. There will be light refreshments provided to those who come out in support of KU’s poetic talents!
To learn more about Stewart, visit her website at www.ebpoetry.com.
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