|Photo contributed. Nadine Williams, poet, at the event at the Mattamy Athletic Centre, Ryerson University where former US First Lady, Michelle Obama, was the keynote speaker.|
By Neil Armstrong
Poet and author, Nadine Williams, believes that opportunities are for the taking and she keeps doing that -- which recently resulted in her performing at an event in Toronto where former US First Lady, Michelle Obama, was the keynote speaker.
She met her and presented a specially-made copy of her poem, “Us Women,” to Obama who was in Toronto to speak about equality for girls and women at an event organized by the Economic Club of Canada and Plan International Canada at Ryerson University on November 28.
Williams, who is from St. Mary, Jamaica, says she met Rhiannon Traill, president and CEO of the Economic Club of Canada at an event in October where Michael Coteau, Minister of Children and Youth Services, announced an initiative of the Ontario Black Youth Action Plan.
Through networking they had a conversation about her work and kept in touch.
As an organization that has speaking engagements, Williams hoped to be included in one of those events.
The opportunity came when Traill told her that she had just the event for her, a luncheon where Michelle Obama was the keynote speaker.
Having heard about the theme of the event, Williams selected her poem, “Us Women,” and wrote another when she understood that it would be attended by an equal number of corporate Canadians and youth.
“I thought about the young people and what a dream this is and so I wrote a poem for the young people of the event called ‘Dreams,’” says Williams.
She sent the poems to Traill who loved them and told her to open the event performing both.
On the actual day, Williams says there was a bit of a faux pas where because she missed the mic check, the sound engineer and the deejay were not aware that she was to perform two poems.
As a result, she only performed “Us Women” and although she garnered many compliments, she wasn’t satisfied because she wanted to perform “Dreams” too.
“It’s a lesson that I learn. I took for granted that with mic check because I don’t have any musical accompaniment as long as the mic works it would have been fine. But I quickly learned in that instance that there is a lot more to mic check than that.”
Her disappointment, she thinks, will lead to another opportunity.
“’Dreams’ would have had the young people on their feet. The other awesome thing about that disappointment as well is I’m sure there will be an opportunity created or presented in the future for that particular piece to have the resounding effect.”
Williams credits her success to the humble beginnings of reading under the kerosene lamplight to her family as a child, coupled with being reared by witty grandparents who spoke in parables all the time.
“I was extremely thrilled for the opportunity,” says Williams about the event for which 3,000 tickets were sold.
She described Obama as a very warm person and gifted to her the poem, “Us Women,” which she “created on canvas with a picture of her [Michelle Obama] in the background” and a copy of her book, “With This Pen I Do Tell.”
“It’s just a phenomenal thing to have happened and there will certainly be quite a number of other opportunities that will come from that opportunity as well. Every time you walk through one door – and this has been my experience – other doors open.”
She gives credit to Margarett Best, a former Member of Provincial Parliament and former cabinet minister, for opening this pathway that has allowed her to perform her poetry at Queen’s Park and other venues.
This year has been an amazing one, says Williams, noting that she got funding for her work, and the event with Obama was a crescendo for her.
Before the year ends, Williams has six school engagements and performed her poem, “The Immigrant Child,” at the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada’s Christmas party on December 15.
In 2008, Williams successfully self-published her first book of poetry, “The Culmination of Marriage Between Me & My Pen,” and has been actively engaged in many events throughout North America, Europe and the Caribbean ever since.
The overwhelming success and demand for the book resulted in the launch of three new books, “With This Pen I Do Tell,” “Pen on Fyah,” and a children’s book, “Love Rocks.”
She has received certificates of recognition for her work, including for community service from York Regional Police; from the mayor as Brampton's poet; Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) volunteer; Ministry of Consumer Services, and Culture Link Community Service.
Williams lives in Brampton, Ontario and is the mother of three children.
[This story has been published in the NA Weekly Gleaner, Dec. 21-27, 2017 issue.]