As a part of Black History Month, Humber & Guelph-Humber Students were fortunate enough to be treated to the world-renowned spoken-word poetry of Suli Breaks.
Born in London, England, Suli has gained prominence through his inspiring poetry tackling issues such as education, culture, and family. He is best known for his 2012 video Why I Hate School, But Love Education which currently has 8.7 million views on YouTube.
Suli was kind enough to take some time after his performance to discuss his poetry and views on media and education with IGNITE. Here’s what he had to say:
How did you get involved with spoken-word poetry as an art form?
I’ve always enjoyed writing, in another lifetime I might have been a novelist. I’ve always been a music fan as well, and I guess spoken word poetry was the best means to access my friends. 2008 was the first time I stepped on stage to perform at my University, I shared some words and it went well, so I guess the rest is history, I started getting invited to speak at different places and then YouTube became a larger platform and everything after that exploded exponentially.
You’ve said “Education is the Key”, but that it doesn’t necessarily need to take place in school, so what alternative forms can education take?
There’s so many different forms of education, it would be hard for me to sum it up in a couple of words. I think the best kinds of education are more individualistic, education that caters to you. So whether you excel at theoretical thinking, or more practical applications of knowledge, there’s so many different ways that one can consume information. Some people learn things from videos online, and others learn better in a lecture, I think all people should explore and delve into as many alternative forms [of education] as possible.
What advice would have for a college or university student specifically?
I think one of my ethos is that life is full of graduations. When you’re in university or college, you’re going to graduate and the world you’re going to see is different from what you expected. So work hard and graduate but also realize that you have tons more experiences coming. Enjoy this experience in school and make the most of the facilities and resources available to you and prep for the future, but know that the journey has just begun. A lot of people fall apart when they don’t immediately get the job they wanted out of school, but life is full of graduations so make the most of the experiences you’re currently going through.
How do things like Black History Month which are essentially forms of large-scale social education, help solve some of the larger issues in society today?
I think the role things like Black History Month play is that they raise awareness. They prompt you to think about things. While actually making noticeable changes is hard, prompting people to start thinking is the beginning of bigger things. It makes a person like me want to delve deeper and learn more.
Your Twitter handle is “Not A Role Model.” If not, then how would you describe your work?
Not A Role Model is a show I’ve done back in London, and my Twitter handle expands out of that. The concept of not being a role model came from the idea that when you make statements, or when you say your opinion, there are a lot of people that want to take that as gospel, and I think that that is counter-intuitive from what I want to promote. What I promote is self-education, and self-understanding; so if you’re taking everything I say as objective truth it contradicts the principles I believe in. So, Not A Role Model essentially means although you may like and agree what I’ve been saying, please go out and aspire to find your own way through the world and think for yourself. It’s also a reminder to myself, that once you are put in a certain position of prominence, there’s a lot of responsibility forced on you and I want to remind myself to stay authentic and stay introspective.
What role does social media play in getting a message out there?
I think social media is key. In this day and age, mainstream media is becoming more biased and skewed to one side or the other of the political spectrum. Most importantly, mainstream media is slow. Social media is an immediate source of news, and you get it straight from the source rather than under the banner of a news network. We are now allowed to interpret the news on our own, rather than seeing traditional news sources and taking them as objective. Social media is important because it allows people to get different angles and perspectives on the same story, and it gives people an avenue to share their messages.
What are your goals for the future?
I want to expand my art and do it on a global level, I think the whole goal overall is to reach as many people as possible and find a way to leave a lasting impact on people.
Thank you again to Suli Breaks for his performance and interview!
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*This Interview has been edited for length and clarity