Poet and educator Dr. Rashidah Ismaili Abu-Bakr designs narratives of relationships between women, men, God and society. Revealing the words of one voice woven within the noise of; war, life, space and time. Her poems express the infinite meloncholy of those bare words, distant voices- alone, screaming to be heard, listened to beyond the darkness of silence.
I met Dr. Ismaili Abu-Bakr in 1995. She read poems from her collection, Missing in Action and Presumed Dead (Africa World Press, 1992) to our English 102 class. As class ended, I took a moment to apologize for being less than attentive during her reading. She gave me a welcoming smile and told me to read it later.
She asked me about writing, about how I felt and where I had been, when I was going.
She asked me to write about injustice. To give words to those without voices. To give injustice a heart, give it breath, bring it alive and make it real. If I didn't then who would? She asked me to listen to history, others, within myself. To open the peripheral vision of my soul, to find stories in what I saw every day; of homeless people, the pain of enslaved countries, of displaced people. When it was real to the people who didn't want to see, it could begin to heal.
That day I began to see beyond obstacles, farther than the boundaries of stereotypes, ignorance and all which obstructed my view of enlightenment.
Dr. Ismaili Abu-Bakr is a native of Benin, Nigeria (Dahomey). She currently works at the Pratt Institute in New York.
If we listen, we will progress. Retaining in a locked box in our soul, the shallows of our memory these words of injustice, of faith wallowing in this wisdom, we will progress.