InspiHERed By spotlights phenomenal women in the Black queer community—everyone from artists to activists. Each week ELIXHER features someone whose personal journey and individual craft inspire us to dream bigger, laugh harder, and love deeper. This week ELIXHER caught up with a Jacksonville, Florida-based poet, Taryn Wharwood.
ELIXHER: Tell us a little about Taryn. Who is she?
TARYN: I can answer this question two ways: On the surface, I am a 29-year-old college dropout who, up until recently, has been living a lie wearing masks that I knew never fit my face. I am currently a full-time poet who will be going back to school to finish a B.A. in Business and completing a M.F.A in creative writing. I have been performing professionally for about 6 years. I am also a creative writing/poetry teacher at a local middle school.
Not so surface: Who is Taryn? Hmm…that’s a good question. I’m 29 and I still don’t know. I mean I really have no earthly idea who I am. At the same time though, I think that it is absolutely beautiful that I don’t know because it makes this life exciting. I find out more and more about myself every day and I have no problems reinventing who I am daily. We were made to change and grow and if we aren’t doing that constantly, then why are we here? I mean really?
ELIXHER: You’re a spoken word artist. What drew you to the craft?
TARYN: I started reciting and memorizing poetry at age 5. The back story: I went to a private school through elementary and every morning before we could enter the school we had to recite a poem, yes even the 5-year-olds. I have been writing and performing ever since then. Poetry gave me the voice I always felt I didn’t/couldn’t have. It is truly my therapy.
ELIXHER: What topics do you typically write and perform about? Why?
TARYN: I write and talk about my life. My poetry is truly authentic. I believe that everything I’ve gone through in my life, I had to go through so that I could write about it. So I could experience this very moment. My life is poetry and I believe that everything I have gone through is a testament of survival and pressing on through it all. No matter what.
ELIXHER: How do you use your craft to do volunteerism with youth?
TARYN: I have been blessed with many opportunities to speak at local schools conducting workshops and speaking one-on-one with our youth. I have been working with youth for many years and a recent encounter at a performance sparked an enlightenment moment for me. A mother came up to me after I finished performing with tears in her eyes saying how I inspired her and especially her 14-year-old daughter. She began to tell me about how two weeks prior, her daughter attempted suicide and she asked if I could speak to her. After speaking with the two of them it was as if “that moment” we all hope for (when we seek clarity from God) happened. I knew then that I needed to do more.
ELIXHER: What keeps you going?
TARYN: Ever since “that moment” I have seen that young girl’s face every time I step on stage, in front of a microphone, in front of anyone willing to listen to me. I see her, I see myself in her eyes. That’s what keeps me going: giving a voice to the voiceless and giving hope to those who feel hopeless. My life keeps me going: the hurt, the love, the pain, their hurt, their love, their pain.
ELIXHER: What keeps you up at night?
TARYN: Mostly my A.D.D. I have a slight problem sitting still even when I am asleep. What also keeps me awake is poetry. There used to be a time when I would get lines for poems in my sleep and I would say that I would just wait until I awoke to write them down and every time without fail I forgot…so now when that happens I grab whatever is close to me, a napkin, a receipt, a pillow case, the headboard…whatever is near just I can get that line down. Other people’s hurt is what also keeps me awake. The lack of peace, the lack of unity…all of that keeps me awake at night.
ELIXHER: What makes you proud to be a part of the black queer community?
TARYN: I am proud because for so long I was not able to just be myself. I wasn’t able to just be Taryn. I am still on a journey of accepting myself but God has made me “Ford” tough enough to handle it all and be able to press on. Now I see that there are others like me when before I felt alone. That is why I am proud. I am black, I am a woman and I am a lesbian…woosah.
ELIXHER: What changes would you like to see in our community?
TARYN: I just want to see peace. I just want people to be able to live their lives the way they would like to, without judgment and without ridicule. If we spent half as much time uplifting one another as we do tearing one another down, this world would be a better place…it would have no choice but to be. Period.
ELIXHER: What’s next for Taryn?
TARYN: Take over the world. The end.