Toluwanimi Obiwole's Journey Led From Nigeria to Denver to Poetry

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Born in Nigeria, Toluwanimi Obiwole moved to Denver when she was young, attending Denver Public Schools and graduating from the Denver School of the Arts. Through the written and spoken word, she has found her passion and voice – and she’s particularly passionate about sharing how she found her identity and how it allows her to make a difference.

She’ll be sharing her story in How I Got Over: Journeys in Verse, a show written by Obiwole and five other celebrated slam poets, which opens tomorrow at Off Center@The Jones. “We talk about love, sex, religion, body image and the reclamation of the black female body,” Obiwole explains.

In her first chapbook, Obiwole told of the challenges she faced at a young age. “I wrote about issues of being an immigrant child being so immersed in American culture, and how both cultures are constantly headbutting,” she says.

Now, after years of self-discovery, Obiwole wants to help others find their identities. “I’ve made it my mission to help people understand that knowing yourself and finding your passions is necessary to the fight for social justice in order to be effective,” she explains.

At workshops with elementary-school students, Obiwole promotes literacy and helps the kids write poetry. “What I love every time is that I go into a classroom and nobody thinks that they can write poetry,” she says. “It’s not alive for them. My students are always so awe-inspired once they figure out that they’re writing and nobody is judging them for it. They create these amazing and beautiful pieces about their identity.”

Obiwole, a member of Minor Disturbance, was named Denver's first Youth Poet Laureate last March. She's now a junior at the University of Colorado Boulder and spends time performing and speaking at local events, including Mayor Michael Hancock’s second inauguration, the Women’s Foundation of Colorado Summit and the MLK Marade.

“Why not completely do what is in your power to change what you can change?” asks Obiwole. “I want to utilize resources all over the city in order to create spaces and to facilitate a Denver that is friendlier to the arts, a Denver that truly wants to represent its population.”

How I Got Over: Journeys in Verse opens at 8 p.m. Friday, March 18, at Off Center@The Jones; for more information, visit denvercenter.org or call 303-893-6090.

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