February 10, 2009

Oromo - Canadian Poet Boonaa Mohammed Celebrates African Legacy

Poet celebrates African legacy
Storyteller speaks out using humour
Phaedra Ventour, Special to The Windsor Star
Published: Monday, February 09, 2009

He is a 21-year-old Muslim, living in Toronto, and fighting a battle to which most of us can relate.

Boonaa Mohammed is a first-generation Canadian, but identifies strongly with his Oromo roots. Though he is better known for his poetry, Mohammed is also heavily involved in the hip-hop community, and uses his quick wit and sense of humour to speak out about local and global issues.

Mohammed spoke at the University of Windsor's African Union Saturday night, for the annual charity culture show and dinner.

The event included performances by dancers and singers, a fashion show showcasing African apparel, a multimedia tribute to African leaders of the past and present and, of course, some of Mohammed's poetry.

"I started getting involved in public speaking, emceeing (a hip-hop term for rapping) and theatre," said Mohammed, who also believes most people are "closet writers."

A third-year radio and television broadcasting major at Ryerson University, Mohammed's work touches on race, ethnicity, poverty, change, victimization, unity, politics ... and the list goes on.

His political views are simple.

"I have no distinct political affiliation. I think it's stupid to claim one political party as your own when even that changes over time," said Mohammed.

Mohammed believes there are few distinctions between hip-hop and poetry, and he prefers not to be pigeonholed into either category.

"In Africa, they are the same thing," said Mohammed, "I don't let people make the distinction because what I do is storytelling. It goes back to the African storytellers."

Mohammed has travelled extensively across North America as the front man of a group called the Kings of Kush and he was also named Best New Artist in the CBC's Poetry Face-Off.

The one thought Mohammed said he wanted to leave with the audience for the night was the idea that it is time to do away with segregation and come together as a whole.

"People often use the African thing to divide us," he said. "Instead, we should use it to bring us together."


The Windsor Star

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