Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Award winning poet shares her art and life experiences at Rose Theater

Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Award winning poet Janae Johnson shared her experiences being black and queer at Rose Theater Feb. 27.
Photo by Joshua Dodge

In honor of Black History Month Southeast’s LGBTQ+ Resource Center and PRIDE invited Janae Johnson to Rose Theater on Feb. 27 to share her story and experiences of being both black and queer in today’s society.

Johnson is a poet, community organizer, teaching artist and a co-founder of both: the Root Slam poetry venue in Oakland CA, and the House Slam poetry venue in Boston, MA . She also holds the title of 2015 Women of the World Poetry Champion, and 2015 National Poetry Slam Champion.

‘A Night With Janae Johnson’ used inspirational and passionate spoken word poetry to relay her thoughts and ideas to people of all races and genders. She discussed the nature of social categorizations and how they overlap. She described the intricacies of black masculinity as a female and how to maintain her love for family, music and basketball.

Johnson’s poems have been featured in outlets such as ESPN, PBS Newshour, Blavity, and Kinfolks: A Journal of Black Expression.

“The type of poetry I do is an interactive type poetry,” Johnson explained to the audience. “That’s the way I know you are engaged and with me and that I’m not making a fool of myself.”

She opened with a ‘spoiler alert’ about the content of her poems and maintained that transparency throughout the performance.

Her poems draw inspiration from pop culture — movies like “Love and Basketball” and other artists like Stevie Wonder - as well as her life experiences from childhood and the generations before her, and her life today.

She performed one never before heard poem titled “Queer Divorce,” about the end of a recent relationship.

Some of her poems were in the form of a roast, that she said are comebacks she would have liked to use in arguments, but didn’t think of until “mad later.”

One of these began with the line “To the boy who saw me and said ‘uh oh beware of the dyke.’” She said that boy believed he could be everything she could not. But in reality, she explained, she can do most anything better than he ever could.

The poem that followed dealt with her friends perception of black culture. She said it is often mixed up and confused by people that do not understand the journey of where that culture came from.

The line: “I wondered why my mother wasn't proud of this white girl's blood on her daughter's good clothes,” brought a strong reaction from the audience.

Her poems were presented unapologetically and with a strong yet comforting presence, drawing snaps and cheers with lines that resonated with a captivated audience.

To learn more about the poet visit her website:

To stay up to date on events hosted by PRIDE and the LGBTQ+ Resource Center visit