WI: What inspired you to start writing poetry?
Omekongo: I was born in Cambridge, MA, and my parents are from the Congo; thatâ€™s where my name came from. Growing up in Boston, I and my siblings were tormented because our name was different. We were beaten up, we had rocks thrown at us, we were shot at, primarily by African Americans, but from people of all backgrounds. I, like everybody, had a choice: I could either pick up the rocks and throw them back, take the bat and swing back, or get the gun and shoot back -- all the things that would have led me to an early grave or early incarceration. I decided my tool of retaliation would be the pen. I picked up the pen to write about my experiences and the writing saved my life. Through the writing I wanted to show people that we were all the same, we cry in the same language, we laugh in the same language. The writing became my escape.
WI: From what other sources do you get your material?
Omekongo: Iâ€™ve lived and worked in 16 different countries, and Iâ€™ve come back to write about those experiences. The more I travel the more I realize that the message I bring is universal, not just for Black people or people in poor communities like the one I grew up in. I also get inspired by our young people, seeing their minds open and the light bulbs going on in their heads while telling them how they can be positive and be successful as an artist. Iâ€™m doing this for the Love. Showing kids they can be successful, be smart and have fun.
WI: Of all the places or countries you have performed, which on do you feel shows you the most â€œLove?â€
Omekongo: Easily, South Africa. Iâ€™ve performed in South Africa five times, and the appreciation for artistry there is like no place Iâ€™ve ever been. I feel like Iâ€™m home, like Iâ€™m one of their sons. When I go home there itâ€™s like performing in no other place.
WI: As an artist, is there anything you would like to say?
Omekongo: You have to make sure you are in your profession for the right reasons. Dr. Farrah Gray, the guy who made himself a millionaire at the age of fourteen said, â€œYou should find what you would do for free and make that your career, because when times are tough you will be still doing what you love.â€ Life is short and you have to make sure that you are pursuing what you love, because if you donâ€™t, you canâ€™t be happy, and if you are not happy, than life is truly not worth living. If you can find a profession that allows you to inspire people, change lives, even save lives, and you can make a living off of it, then you can find no better profession, so donâ€™t ignore your calling.
For more information on Omekongo Dibinga visit www.omekongo.com