Last night, Querida Revolucion, Soy Tu Nieta was Aja Monet’s first solo show in New York City. Held in the Lower East Side at the legendary Nuyorican Poets Cafe, a rainbow of faces, new and old, curious to listen to song, poetry, and prose for two hours gathered themselves from a cold, drizzling, Friday night.
The show sold out and the audience became warmed by the bodies of friends, fans, students, and family. Aja is the first youngest poet (male or female) to win the Nuyorican Poetry Cafe's Grandslam Championship. She is an author, a songwriter, singer, & performer who has touched stages with a range of artists like Phillip Levine to Doug E Fresh.
Aja came back to New York for her first solo show after living in Europe and traveling to the land of her parents, Cuba.
Although Aja Monet is not yesterday, there is a consistent path that she is on since her formative days at Sarah Lawrence, studying the spirits and poets. Aja steadily produces work that shares the sentiments of people of color everywhere. That is not to say that her work doesn’t reach all races. We are a nation of immigrants, artists, and humans constantly bombarded with injustices. Last night was testament to that struggle. A testament of survival.
Aja graced the stage with a head wrap, red stained lips, and a smile that welcomed us into her space—not the physical space per se, but the ones that are interpreted as home. The stage was lined with red and white candles, and the air filled with burning sage—a symbolic gesture that transformed the platform into an altar- a metaphor of Santeria, the ancestors, and the Orishas.
The DJ lowered blasted rhythms based with congas y azucar as Aja approached the mic.
Digital photos from her trip to Cuba slid on the flatscreen, the landscape and architecture of her people blinked while Aja shared personal and political poems that addressed the many forms of herself—immigrant, Caribbean, brown, lover, educator, spirit, vessel, poet, and the many other interconnected complexities that is evident in her work.
Yet, last night her work was deeper. It was a sharing of a part of her history that is new to all of us, even her.
Cuba was a longing, a piece of narrative that was kept silent between the lips of her grandmother, a woman who fled during the Revolucion, leaving her newborn behind. There are many mothers who leave their children, hoping to find a better home in the United States. I’ve seen these stories scar Dominican women here and even Juno Diaz touches on it in his fiction.
Family is one of the most, if not the most, important aspect of personal, emotional development. As a person of color, who has been heavily disconnected from family here in the states, my heart resonated with the stories that connected her towards understanding her lineage and mannerism.
Aja shares the stage with James Tillman, guitarist & singer.
Aja Monet disclosed that she is writing a book about her trip to Cuba. Graziella, her grandmother wanted to go back to Cuba and her son longs for his mother. I pray that story gets told.
To me it is clear that NYC loves Aja Monet’s work, which is deeply spiritual and political. The show sold out with love, hugs, and an exchange of worlds between Guantanamo and here.
You can follow Aja at @aja_monet.
*This article was updated on August 6, 2015