Dominique Christina

Dominique Christina is an award-winning writer, performer, educator, and activist. She holds five national poetry slam titles in four years, including the 2014 & 2012 Women of the World Slam Champion and 2011 National Poetry Slam Champion. Her work is greatly influenced by her family's legacy in the Civil Rights Movement and by the idea that worlds make worlds. Her first full-length poetry book, The Bones, The Breaking, The Balm: A Colored Girl's Hymnal, published by Penmanship Books, is available now. Her second book, This Is Woman's Work, is set for publication in October 2015.

When did you start writing poetry and how did it develop into a career?
I started writing poetry my senior year of undergrad. It was a creative writing class. I was tasked with composing two new poems per week to be critiqued by the professor and my peers. It was intimidating for me. Mostly because what was coming out of me was largely autobiographical and hard. It was all the stuff I never said out loud; stuff about my childhood and the abuse I suffered at the hands of my stepfather, and my community which had gone through a great deal of trauma due to the sudden and catastrophic introduction of gang violence; and what is was like for me to grow up in this body with all of the complicated history that is attached to it (personal and global). I don't know how it became my career. I'm still flabbergasted by that. All I can tell you is that once I elected to perform, there were enough people who resonated with my work for it to take off. From there it was slam championships, and book deals etc. I'm very lucky.

What inspires you?
Everything inspires me. My children. My mother and my family of origin. My community. And by all means the opportunity to be an advocate for those who have been historically and contemporarily oppressed.

What have been your biggest challenges in your career?
My biggest challenges in my career are quite frankly the biggest challenges in my life period: being woman in the face of patriarchy and rape culture and being black in a society that does not regard my community as valuable. It is about being an a part of an unprotected class of people. That is always and in all ways a challenge.

How would you describe your leadership style
I don't know what my leadership style is. I'm an educator so I love to see people come in contact with their own brilliance and if I can be a catalyst in that, I throw myself toward it.

What was your biggest mistake?
I don't know. I probably have made too many to isolate one. At the same time I don't really respond to my choices that way. It either worked out or it didn't but I don't often organize myself around the idea of something being a mistake.

What do you think is the purpose of women’s colleges?
There is no one answer here. But obviously I believe that oppressed people should have a right to their own space, to define what that space is and how it functions, and to define and redefine safety for themselves and carve it out for themselves.

What does it mean to be a successful woman?
It means to survive, to LIVE on your own terms and in your own handwriting without apology and without seeking permission.