Aja Monet’s work may be political, but she despises politicians. “Unless it’s free health care, affordable housing, climate justice, abolition, and an end to imperialism, I’m probably not fckin with [politicians],” she recently wrote on her Instagram page — a page that she treats like a “virtual scrapbook.”
On her Instagram, she posts prayers, affirmations, musings, memes, and of course, poems. Monet’s work is inextricably infused with the energy of activism. She has always been candid about how she believes art has the power to heal wounds and transform societies.
“A poet’s power is in their abilities, to tell the truth, and use everything in their poetic arsenal to shift the conditions of the poor, abused, and oppressed to balance the scales of justice,” she wrote in a vulnerable blog post on Medium. “Poetry alone cannot change the material conditions of an unjust society, but I challenge anyone to name a substantive freedom movement that does not have poetry.”
The youngest person to ever become the Nuyorican Poets Cafe Grand Slam Champion at the tender age of 19, Brooklyn-born Monet lives, breathes, and dreams in poetry. Deeply drawn to her Caribbean roots (Monet is of Cuban and Jamaican descent), Monet moved to Miami, where she now calls home. It’s in Miami that she really leaned into her role as a community organizer and a “cultural worker.”
It is evident that Monet has the spirit of an organizer when one looks at the roster of projects she’s involved in: she facilitates the “Voices: Poetry for the People” workshop in collaboration with the Community Justice Project and Dream Defenders. She created the online space “Homemade: An Online Poetry Reading for the People,” where poets separated by COVID-19 can still express themselves. She is also the Artistic Creative Director for V-Day, the global activist movement to end violence against women and girls. So, yeah. Saying “she wears a lot of hats” may be an understatement.
Her poetry doesn’t shy away from the challenging topics: racism, sexism, violence, death, inequality. The past year has been an incredibly challenging time for those of us concerned with structural inequality. The pandemic forced us to isolate ourselves from our communities, watch our loved ones die, and confront the failures of both capitalism and our healthcare system. In May, George Floyd’s killing made America painfully come to terms with how much farther we have to go in the fight for equality.
In December, Monet took to her “virtual scrapbook” to write a poem dedicated to the end of one of the hardest years in modern history.
“This year can only be described by the wordless sorrow and clairvoyant joy of days returned to us./death is not the end…./poverty is strategic/abolition./affordable housing./defund the police./vote with how you love./you don’t need to say “self” if it’s genuine care. or love./listening is a form of speaking.”