Black Roots & Mariam Shittu: An Interview

Black Roots is a youth organization created to educate young people about racism and the history of oppression faced by the black community. It was founded last year after the Black Lives Matter movement to continue the conversation about race and serve as a platform for people to seek knowledge and resources on racism.

They interview inspiring black individuals who the black community can learn and find inspiration from. In January, I was contacted to grant this interview, and it was shared on their Instagram page today @_blackroots_. See the transcripts below.

Interview Questions:

1. Who is a Black Individual That You Look up to?

I have a lot of inspirations and people I look up to but if I have to pick one person, I will say Michelle Obama. I had admired her from far before I read about her life in “Becoming”. Her husband was the President of the United States but she somehow managed to make a name for herself separate from him. She’s the embodiment of what a black woman should represent. Her poise, confidence, excellence, perseverance and determination remind me every day that I can accomplish all my dreams. 

2. As a Writer, What’s the Number One Thing You Want Your Reader to Take Away from Your Work?

I write across different topics because I’ve always embraced versatility. However, all my writings have something in common, which is truth. I want my readers to know that we’re all winging this thing called life. That it’s okay to make mistakes and that it’s okay to try again. I want them to see themselves in me and believe that they will overcome whatever they are going through at the moment and know peace and joy again. 

3. As a Black Woman, What Do You Believe is the Toughest Challenge You Face?

I’d say having to prove myself over and over again. As much as there’s a lot of noise out there on feminism, which I absolutely support, I still find myself overtly needing to show I’m capable of executing tasks, even within my household. It’s a long battle I wouldn’t mind fighting forever if I have to. I’m privileged that I live in a country where racism is nonexistent because we’re all black. However, I’ve had my fair share of racist and stereotypical experiences during my holidays abroad, which is why I’m always eager to lend my voice to the black lives matter movement. 

4. What Moments Make You Feel Most Proud of Being a Black Woman? 

So many moments; but the most recent one was when Kamala Harris was sworn in as the first black and female Vice President of the United States. It was an exciting moment for many women all over the world, especially black women. And a few minutes later, Amanda Gorman, the American Youth Poet Laureate, blessed us with “The Hill We Climb” at the inauguration ceremony. It was yet another reminder that poetry is important and exceptional, and all my dreams are valid. 

5. When Did You Begin Writing Poetry and What Prompted you to Begin Writing?

I launched my blog; in March 2017, as a self-discovery venture. I was on a mission to find my talent because I believed there was something more to me. I was struggling with a lot of pent up emotions that needed to be released and I thought writing them out would help. I wrote my first poem in June 2017 and I haven’t stopped writing poetry ever since. I’ve written over 300 poems. I didn’t think much of them initially until I realized later through how easy it was to write, how my words impacted people, how happy it made me feel, and the tremendous feedback I’ve received, that I found what I had been looking for. It’s amazing that while trying to help myself, I’ve helped thousands of people as well.

6. What Does Poetry Mean to You?

Oh wow, I love this question! Poetry is my sunshine on a rainy day. It’s the answer to my questions. It’s my happiness on a sad day. It’s my peace on a busy day. It’s my yes, my no, and everything in between. It’s my before, my present, and my future. It’s my heartbeat, my best friend, and my forever companion. Poetry is therapy. Poetry is my life. 

7. What is Your Favorite Poem and Why is it Close to Your Heart?

This was the hardest of all your questions because I love all my poems and it’s impossible to choose a favorite. However, I love my inspirational poems most, because I turn to them when I need that reminder that I’m going to be okay. A few of them include; “She Will”, “You Are Not Broken”, “Finding My Way”, and “The Sun Will Shine Again”. My first inspirational poem, “Everything Will Be Fine” is the one I recite to myself as often as I need to. When you read the words below, you will see why.

The sun is going to shine again
The stars are going to sparkle again
The flowers are going to bloom again
Your joy is going to flow again
Your heart is going to smile again
Your mind is going to be at peace again
Whatever you may be going through now,
you’re going to be fine again.

8. When Did You Decide to Start a Business, and What Fuels Your Passion for it?

I started my merchandize business in 2018. It’s a spin-off of the content on my blog. I have a category for inspiration where I share posts to encourage people to do and be more. I had asked for a shirt to be made for me with a few words of inspiration on it. I wore it and shared a photo on my Instagram page. The feedback I received was encouraging, and a couple of people asked if the t-shirt was for sale. This, with a push from one of my dearest friends, motivated me to start. I think it’s super cool to wear a shirt that sends a positive message to whoever sees it. I opened a separate Instagram page for my business recently; @msmerchandize. Some sample texts include; “Greatness Has No Gender”, “Fear Regret More Than Failure”, and “Positive Vibes Only”. Everyone needs a little encouragement and it may just be from the text on a tee.

I hope this inspires you to reach for the stars. Keep dreaming!

Mariam Shittu


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