Bilphena Yahwon | Poet
What inspired you to become a poet and a writer?
Whats crazy is that I never called myself a poet, other people called me a poet, I just loved writing, so I wrote, I never wanted to call myself anything. But what inspired me to write? I think writing has always been my source of communication. I would like to say that I am an eloquent person, I think I say what I need to better through writing. And it's just easier that way, I think, you're not thinking as hard, and it's a very intimate thing to do. Also, my grandfather, he loves writing, he's a poet, and my mother took writing very seriously, when I was a child, she always wanted me to write. She would tell me to read a book, and write back what I read from authors, like June B. Jones was one of my favorites. And she would encourage me to write some of my own stories so that's kinda where my love for writing came from.
What are some accomplishments you have made?
I don't like listing my accomplishments because that's about acknowledges which I appreciate, but that's not why I do things.
How do you juggle such an intense schedule?
I try to have fun with it. I have Josh and Eboni who are my go to people as far as my schedule goes. Most people notice when I am traveling, even when I'm working they are with me because they make things easy. Having two close people who are able to keep me steady, and make sure I'm having fun as I'm doing it, makes my schedule better. I think I've kind of adapted to such a busy schedule, I expect that this is what's going to happen, and as much as I can I try to make each thing fun. So when I'm the creative director of a photo shoot, I goof off the whole time, but I still know that I was working. You just adjust to it, there are times when it becomes overwhelming, and I just don't do anything but after a while you kinda fall into it and it feels wired when you're not doing anything.
You lead a lot of social justice events on campus. How did you become such a strong leader?
My mom told me that I was always a sassy child, I always wanted people to hear what I had to say and I was one of those people who always talked back. I think that came through education, being empowered by education helped me. I came to this country as a refugee, my grandfather was a humanitarian, and he did a lot of political work back home. Having that background build my foundation. Everything I know about being a humanitarianism I learned from my mother and my grandfather, and they laid that foundation. But still I had to learn who Bilphena was and what my beliefs were and college definitely helped with that. From the courses I was learning to the center for student diversity, my mentor Mrs. Joan and Victor Collins and even down to the internet, exposed me to different things in the world. I kinda had to form my own beliefs and opinions. Once I did, I realized that I really wanted to focus on issued dealing with race, as a black person, gender as a woman, and African issues as a Liberian. I decided to put all of these things together but I still wanted to focus on social justice. It's a bit of an ego thing when you feel like you have a something to say and the world needs to listen. I feet like I have something to say, there's a lot of work that needs to be done.
My favorite quote, despite the fact that Gandhi is a pedophile, a racist and he's antisemitic, is
So I think that if you see a problem, and you're not trying to fix it, then you cannot complain. Cause if you're complaining, what are you complaining about, did you get up and fix it? no. So I'm the type of person who uses that quote if I see there's a problem. Rather than saying 'oh the next person will do it', I'm gonna get up and do it. And that's where the leadership role comes from.
What are your future goals after college?
My goal is to get rich or die trying. Find a sugar daddy, stuff like that is all I wanna do in life. I'm just lying. After college I want to work in the non profit sector, specifically non profit's focusing on social justice issues such as women, refugees, and people of color. I definitely want to build my own non profit organization, and continue my website. The thing is, while other people say, 'this is what I want t do when I graduate', I never had that mind set because I'm doing what I wanna do after I graduate, I don't see a time period. To me there's no boundaries because there's really no difference between here, and when I graduate except for the fact that I'll have a piece of paper. I'm just going to continue what I'm doing now and hopefully my degree will just accelerate it more.
What makes you original?
I feel like that's a subjective question cause maybe I'm not original. I'd rather have somebody else answer that question cause I don't know why I'm original.
Besides my name Bilphena which is from my ethnic group Bassa. My name means goddess of war, and my moms name is Tryphena which is from the book of Romans in the Bible.
I think you are original because you are not swayed by societies expectations. I can't really put you in a category like you're a hipster or an activist because you're just Bilphena.
That's lovely, thank you.