All Flowers Are Roses: National Library of Jamaica Uses Poetry to Fight Violence Against Young Women

Wow. What a combination! Poetry and martial arts. However, the healing power of poetry and the strength and focus of martial arts do actually compliment each other. It’s a two-pronged approach to dealing with the issue of gender-based violence.

Instructor/poet Yashika Graham leads the girls in a martial arts demonstration.

As the summer winds down, it’s good to look back at some of the many – and remarkable – camps for young people and community-based activities that took place across the island. I wish I could write about them all. This was one creative and meaningful program organised by the National Library of Jamaica (NLJ) in downtown Kingston and conceptualised by our Poet Laureate Lorna Goodison. What a beautiful focus for Ms. Goodison, too: our young people. The NLJ hopes to  mount the series again next summer with larger numbers and increased corporate support. Here is the press release and some great photos from the NLJ.

Participants were presented with Certificates to mark their completion of the course.

Answering the call to end the problem of gender-based violence in Jamaica, The National Library of Jamaica (NLJ) has mounted the new summer series, All Flowers Are Roses: Poetry and Self-Defence, through the Poet Laureate of Jamaica programme.

The series culminated with a special OPEN DAY event held on Tuesday, August 15, at the Institute of Jamaica Junior Centre, 10-16 East Street. The student showcase featured poetry and martial arts performances as the participants showed off personal safety techniques, such as how to disarm an assailant. The issue of the violence experienced by Jamaica’s children was the central theme as a group of students performed a dub poem titled Senseless.

Cutting the cake! The girls (and the only boy) celebrate their achievements. On the left is National Librarian Beverley Lashley and on the right is dub poet/instructor Cherry Natural.

Another student, Rashaud Fearon read his poem The Only Boy, based on his experience as the only young man in the class. Fearon was allowed to join the series after expressing his keen interest in learning martial arts. Students Saphaire Campbell and Brandy Edwards shared their experiences from over the course of the summer series. The girls thanked their instructors and the Poet Laureate programme for the opportunity to participate in the series. Instructors, Cherry Natural, dub poet and martial arts black-belt, and Yashika Graham, president of the Jamaica Poetry Society led students through rounds of self-defence maneuvers to the delight of the gathering.

Valrie Kemp-Davis presented copies of her book to the National Library of Jamaica.

The event also featured a presentation by Valrie Kemp-Davis, author of Jamaican Mi Seh Mi ABCs. Ms. Kemp-Davis read from her delightful new book that celebrates the beauty and lyricism of our own Jamaican language. It was seven-year-old Zion, a performer from August Town, who stole the show with his rendition of Mi Love My ABCs, inspired by the book. Ms. Kemp-Davis concluded her presentation by donating copies of the children’s books to the collection of the National Library.

The All Flowers Are Roses five-week summer programme was aimed at girls between the ages 11-14 years and fostered the development of the voices of young girls by bringing together poetry and self-defence principles to work with girls from Kingston’s inner cities. The series utilized a holistic approach teaching girls personal safety techniques and strategies combined with motivational and self-affirming poetry.

The programme was conceptualised by the Poet Laureate of Jamaica, Lorna Goodison. Goodison explained the importance of encouraging self-expression among children, “to be able to stand up and present something where people understand you… there is no field of endeavour where that will not help you.” Herself a teacher and mother, Goodison has opted to place focus on working with children during her tenure as Poet Laureate.

Poet Laureate Lorna Goodison. (Photo: Poetry Foundation)

The Poet Laureate of Jamaica programme is administered by the National Library of Jamaica (NLJ). The NLJ is an agency of the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment, and Sport. For more information on the National Library of Jamaica and the Poet Laureate of Jamaica Programme, visit . The programme was made possible through financial assistance by JMMB Joan Duncan Foundation, JAMCOPY and Sun Island.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.