On Saturday, December 8th, I got the opportunity of a lifetime when I was invited by Lembas Works to do a public interactive event with none other than the famous world cellist Yo-Yo Ma, alongside three other spoken word poets.

The theme of this pop-up event centered on making an impact in the community, and connecting with those we share this city with through art and through music. Yo-Yo Ma has been working hard to make connections with the public using art and music, in hopes of creating a world where we all feel closer to each other. It was in following with this theme that I was asked to write a short poem to perform.

I did not really know what this event would look like until the day of, and it was absolutely marvelous. Yo-Yo Ma played Bach Minuets, and one by one the poets got an opportunity to recite their poem with Yo-Yo Ma’s music to complement the poetry.

By the end, I also felt a real connection with the audience, so much that I had to refer to my paper with the words of my poem, even though I had it perfectly memorized, but I just got lost in the moment. It was clear that the audience was so engaged, both being carried by the music as well as the words of the poets.

The event ended with Yo-Yo Ma finishing the recital of the minuets and then paying a tribute to Leonard Cohen by playing the song Hallelujah, while the poets, organizers and the audience sang along. This last moment of connection left almost everyone in tears, including myself. I did not expect this moment to be as powerful as it was, but I think what made it powerful was that there was an intention of connecting with each other, and I think that entering the space having this intention was monumental in making this moment a reality. It is amazing to believe that it was really that simple, and yet, it worked magnitudes in allowing people to really look at who is around them, and allowing themselves to get swept away by the music, the words, and the feeling of sharing space with those that live in our proximity.

This event reinforced my faith in how much of an impact the arts can make, and how they can be a tool to creating a world where we are able to better empathize with each other, better connect with each other, and better listen to each other.

Magic exists. And this precious afternoon showed me that even in a climate of hostility and fear, the simple intention of wanting to connect and experience our truths together is enough to spark powerful moments and motivations for change.

For this opportunity I am so grateful to the South Asian Women’s Community Centre, to Lembas Works, and to Yo-Yo Ma’s vision and work.

Below is the poem I performed as part of the performance.

my mother knows 5 languages
Punjabi, Hindi, Urdu , French and English 
during her first few jobs in Tiohtiá:ke,
she learned phrases in Italian and Spanish,
she knew 
that language holds the power of connection.

in this city we have boroughs, 
neighborhoods, lines of houses 
filling every direction of the compass.
but you cannot place people
between borders and 
call it a village.
community is not proximity by chance.

maybe i too am afraid 
to know the neighbour that always passes me 
on my street,
but I know today I am alive because
my mother would have spoken to her. 

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