UEL lecturers bring one of Baltimore’s hottest young writers to London
Staff and students touched by visiting talent Kondwani Fidel
By Lee Pinkerton
University of East London (UEL) staff and students, as well as local residents, recently enjoyed the talents of one of the US’s most exciting young African-American writers.
Kondwani Fidel, an artist from Baltimore, Maryland, spent a week in London doing readings and workshops at UEL and in and around east London. His visit culminated in a spoken word performance on March 23 at Gerry’s Kitchen in Stratford.
Described as the ‘Voice of Baltimore’, Kondwani uses his life experiences to promote social justice and equality, challenging systemic racism in society. Author of the critically acclaimed book Raw Wounds, he has been featured in The Washington Post, Mic, CNN, and has made multiple television appearances on RT America.
Kondwani visited the UK thanks to the efforts of UEL Public Health Lecturer Julie Botticello.
She said, “I came across Kondwani on Twitter late last summer, when his autobiographical essay, "How a young boy has been decaying in Baltimore since age 10: A death note", went viral.
“His story spoke to my heart and I reached out to see if he would be interested in coming to UEL to work with our students and the local community.”
After many Skype and email conversations, and with the help of UEL’s Civic Engagement Fund, Ms Botticello welcomed Kondwani to London in March.
UEL Senior Lecturer Michael Cole's Sports Therapy students enjoyed their own workshop with Kondwani.
Mr Cole said, “Kondwani's visit was a powerful reminder that society is set up for certain people to fail, and those with a certain skill, or privilege, must use it to provide means and opportunities for those people to better help themselves.
“Students and staff were enthralled and engaged by Kondwani's skill, prose, and lyrical excellence, and fully engaged with his focus on critical thinking and social injustice.”
Mr Cole’s students are part of a staff/student collaborative group called BEAT (Body Equality in Athletic Therapies). Group co-chair Powell Omozogie, a UEL student, said, “It was a privilege to have hosted such a skilful individual who shared some of his powerful thoughts about the injustice in Baltimore and contrasted it with what he called 'a safe place' like ours.
“I believe that the people who were present on the day of his workshop, although they had not read one of his books or knew much about him, left with some precious advice from Kondwani on how to be a better person. I really hope to experience more workshops like this one.”
Powell’s BEAT co-chair, Paloma Pinto, said, “Kondwani is just someone like any of us and this is what makes him so special. He is that kick in the ass we all need to find what we are passionate about and dedicate time to share it with people. He is a reminder of how we in our own fields can build bridges for people that don't have access to the same opportunities.
“You need inspiration, and it does not get much better than him. Seeing someone our age already doing so much, and so concerned and trying, makes him a relatable role model.”