Soft Luxury in Chicago

The Mariane Ibrahim gallery is a consistently edifying experience. Last year, I found myself stunned and awed at the Mariane Ibrahim gallery in Paris. Stunned because who knew that my whimsical decision to explore Blackness in Paris could lead me to such a breathtaking experience? And awed because of the inspiration and comfort I felt in the face of Amoako Boafo’s expansive painting of a woman playing tennis. This moment was the impetus for my continued whimsy, and led to my walking into the Mariane Ibrahim gallery in Chicago’s West Town 9 months later.

What I felt this time was once again unpredictable. I was met in the entrance by a list of names, unknown to me, yet familiar in their Nigerian-ness. Upon seeing the first painting, I exhaled a breath I wasn’t aware I was holding. As I strolled, I was enveloped by feminine energy, Blackness, and a sound that embodied all the lovely parts of noise and all the juicy parts of quiet.

The highlight of my sojourn in the gallery this time around was the viewing of Olukemi Lijadu’s Guardian Angel. A piece which touched on love and history, family and art, religion and colonialism. In short, everything I could have asked for.

The Mariane Ibrahim gallery is a soft luxury that always rejuvenates my spirit. It was the ostentatious centerpiece of my Chicago experience.

My first stop in Chicago was Semicolon bookstore, a Black woman owned bookstore in River West. The store has a very homey vibe and the shelves are filled with every genre of Black literature a diaspora loving bibliophile like myself can enjoy. While there I bought a womanist poetry anthology: Wild Imperfections; I immediately sat down in the store to read and instantly felt I had started my trip off on the right foot.

Gallery Guichard in Bronzeville showcased dynamic art from across Africa and it’s diaspora, with an air of friendship and community wafting through the gallery as artists spoke of their drive to create.

Sofar Chicago’s Black History Month show in the historic building that was once Vee-Jay Records featured the incredible Mara Love. Mara blessed the audience with a deep soulful voice that seemed a serendipitous throwback to the legends who once recorded in the same space.

The American Writers Museum is an homage to literary legends and a muse to literary legends to be. There I learned: Your words will live forever, and will inspire the people your dreams are not even capable of imagining.

Slow is my poem reflecting on the many poems of Wild Imperfections that accompanied me around Chicago.


Your wild imperfection
you're perfectly wild

My companion
as I roam
this city
remind me
rest; read

Teach me
read, see, feel
the last word
the last touch
of ink on page

moving fingers
turn the page

I am
a slow learner
then become
slow, learning



These Poems.

Black Girl, Call Home by Jasmine Mans

I’ve been a fan of spoken word poetry for about a decade now, and Jasmine Mans was one of my first favorite poets. She was a part of an incredible collective called The Strivers Row, comprised of six very talented poets: Zora Howard, Alysia Harris, Miles Hodges, Joshua Bennett, Carvens Lissaint, and of course, Jasmine Mans. (I listed all of them so you can go look them up, they’re all doing amazing work!) The Strivers Row introduced and welcomed early teenage me into the world of spoken word art and fostered a love that I hold onto to this day. 

Reading and listening to (yes, I did both) Jasmine Mans’ book of poetry, Black Girl, Call Home, was nothing short of delightful for me. The experience felt warm and nostalgic; it was life-affirming. Indeed, it was my call home. 

So, in light of, and in honor of all I’ve learned and felt from Jasmine Mans over the years, I’ve written my own poem in tribute to Black Girl, Call Home

These poems. 
pay homage to blackness 
in so many of its iterations. 

These poems speak.
to personal quarrels 
& systemic battles, 
paint nuanced cultural anecdotes
as vibrant masterpieces. 

These poems elicit. 
visceral nostalgia: 
honoring grand traumas, 
embracing quotidian joys. 

These poems. 
to the eye, 
draw out deep sighs, 
heartfelt mmhm's 
of understanding, 
& identifying. 

These poems. 
to the ear, 
bear witness, 
to profound conviction,
excavate space, 
for profound truths. 

These poems offer. 
hand & heart
to hold. 

These poems. 
birthed of courage 
of audacity, 
hurt and jubilee. 

These poems supersede. 
looking and listening.

These poems demand. 
seeing eye & hearing ear. 

These poems.
may not
be ignored.