Shareefa is a UK based spoken word poet, writer, mentor and workshop facilitator. She was awarded the UK Entertainment Best Poet 2017 Award and a nominee for the Eastern Eye Arts, Culture & Theatre 2019 award by the Arts Council. Her poetry has featured on BBC The One Show, Channel 4 and ITV and been published in various publications. All in all, it’s pretty sufficient to say that she is using her voice and talents to empower and inspire women of color everywhere.
I’d known Shareefa briefly before she’d moved to London and then one day I came across a video of her spoken word. And it changed things for me in so many ways. Never before had I seen a strong, Asian woman who came from the same city I did, be so unashamed to share her truth with the world.
This book has so much to offer – if anything, the cover itself is enough to make you want to pick up the book – it has such an ethereal feel to it.
Galaxy Walk is named after a walk in Leicester, UK – and the book follows the theme of sticking to its roots, with a few of the chapters named after streets nearby, streets I have wandered many times in life. To see them celebrated in the written word, well with it, it brings a certain joy that as a young Asian girl, I never got, the joy of finding something relatable. That speaks to me. That feeling that my world isn’t so small – that kind of magic I appreciate so much as an adult. But I cannot even imagine the impact Shareefa is having on the youngsters in the neighborhood.
The first chapter, “Pegasus Close”, welcomes you into her journey with a piece about her childhood and the hot chapattis her grandmother would make as she skipped home from school, home through all the familiar places. I’ve seen many writers try and put down in words the experience of growing up in a Desi household.
The first two chapters explore the sentimental Indian snacks that feel like comfort, the desi obsession with fair skin, the way the system discriminates against the Asian youth, as well as so many things which I’ve never seen written about. It fully encompasses both the comforts and discomforts of growing up as an Asian, Muslim woman. As Benjamin Zephaniah says “Shareefa knows a woman’s place is on the front line speaking truth to power.”
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Thank you to the Eastern Eye Arts, Culture & Theatre Awards and the Arts Council for including me in the finalist nominees for the Eastern Eye emerging artist award for the poem I wrote and directed for The One Show- Grenfell One Year Later. I appreciate the support for something very close to my heart and the message being bigger than just art but creating to make people feel who may otherwise look away and refusing to be silent till our people get justice. Much love to my community?May South Asian creatives in Britain continue to be supported and celebrated by the South Asian creative industry and beyond. Please sign up to the @grenfell_united mailing list on grenfellunited.org.uk to keep updated on how you can support the long term campaign for justice and safer housing for people up and down the country ?
In the chapter “Jury in Space”, Shareefa takes us on a journey through her travels in the world, whether that be in Sierra Leone or Haifa – she shares the beauty of each place she visited, as well as the pain she witnessed. I find this to be a constant theme in this book – she doesn’t sugarcoat anything. She shows us the good and the bad of all the issues she discusses whilst still keeping the tone and making it feel like you are having an intimate conversation with a friend over a cup of Masala Chai.
One of the most important chapters turned out to be one of the shortest. “Grenfell Rd” consists of three poems, an eyewitness account of that night, a reflection a year on and a commentary on the system that allowed it to happen. Grenfell Tower was a 24-story tower block that caught on fire, causing the death of 72 people. For most of us, Grenfell is spoken as though a prayer, we watched videos in horror and helplessness. But for Shareefa, who was there, who tried to help in any way she could – to be able to keep going and use her voice speak of such a thing takes a lot of mental strength. To be able to write it into words and share it with the world so they cannot forget, well that takes bravery I cannot quite put into words.
This book discusses politics, religion, mental health and so much more which is typical from a poetry collection, what makes it striking is the eyes we are seeing all of this through. It’s a perspective which is not often shared with the world – through the eyes of a Muslim woman who is not afraid to be vulnerable and share herself with us.
This book is a gift and I hope Shareefa never stops writing, speaking and inspiring the rest of us.
Get Galaxy Walk here!