Meet Hamda Yusuf: She’s 19, she’s a local slam poetry champion, and she wants to be the US ambassador to Somalia.
At the Youth Speaks! Poetry Grand Slam last month, most of the poems performed on stage were punctuated by supportive hoots and shouts of, “Youth speaks!” from the packed crowd, culminating in rowdy choruses of applause. But only a few poets earned multiple sets of straight 10s from the judges.
One of them was Hamda Yusuf.
Incredibly, only ten years ago she didn’t speak English. Her family had just migrated from Somalia.
Today she’s a 19-year-old UW freshman pursuing a degree in international studies. But she already has a wealth of global experience under her belt, having lived on three continents.
After advancing through the preliminaries, Yusuf took the opportunity at the Grand Slam final to evoke ancient Somali traditions and stoke the crowd’s indignation at Islamophobia. What set her apart, though, was the earnest humor and moments of mundane Americaness mixed into her poetry—all delivered with a sublime confidence.