When you’re on the mic, you become dope. You become bold and wonderful and proud, and someone to respect and admire, Lady K said.
Wearing a tan hijab and an orange-and-blue gator-themed scarf knitted by her father, Kalimah Ujaama, a 22-year-old UF political science senior, also known as “Lady K,” comfortably sat at her hotel desk after giving speeches all day at a debate conference in Virginia.
Since her freshman year, Ujaama has helped manage and host DOPEnMIC, Gainesville’s hottest open mic venue. DOPEnMIC occurs every last Wednesday of the month at a venue free of charge and with no cover.
DOPEnMIC will take place tonight at 9 p.m. at The Backyard at Boca Fiesta & Palomino. Bring a blanket and some change because they are fundraising for Porters Quarters, one of Gainesville’s oldest and most historic African American neighborhoods to children who are in desperate need for clothes, shoes and food.
In this interview, Ujaama talks about DOPEnMIC, her upcoming book, inspirations and poetry.
The Avenue: Describe for someone who has never heard of it what spoken word poetry is.
Kalimah Ujaama: Spoken word poetry is performance poetry. When you’re up on stage, you’re dedicating your words to the crowd, so it’s not technical. The words are more comprehensive for people to understand and acted out in a performance way, like how actors would act. Spoken word is dedicated for the people. This is poetry for the masses.
The Avenue: Who is “Lady K”?
KU: Lady K takes names. She is the ultimate warrior. She spits fire. Lady K is someone who is bold and proud to be loud. She doesn’t care what anyone says. At the end, she fights for what she believes in. She’s the same as Kalimah. For me, Lady K is there for others.
The Avenue: How did you come up with choosing your stage name?
KU: I came up with the name Lady K in high school when I was choosing a name for myself doing spoken word. It kind of reminded me of Beyoncé and how she also had the name Sasha Fierce. “Lady” comes from this fantasy of wanting to be royalty. The “K” is for Kalimah. The name reminds me that no matter where I am, I am to be respected and to look out for others too.
The Avenue: What are your influences for your writing?
KU:My family and any external events that happen to my community. A lot [focuses] on my identities being a woman, Muslim and black and what affects these communities. Some of these influences include police brutality, mass incarceration and indigenous rights.
The Avenue: Tell me about the book that you are working on.
KU: I wanted to create a book that spoke to the African and indigenous diaspora, but created in a young adult fantasy kind of way. I started this project in January 2017. Hopefully I will finish the book soon so that it will come out later in 2019.
The Avenue: What is your favorite line of your own poem?
KU: My favorite line is “I am a dragoness spitting acid in the form of fire,” because it reminds me how strong I am and how strong I will still continue to be. It comes from my poem, “Preface.” The reason the poem is called Preface is because it is an introduction to who I am.
The Avenue: What is the story behind how DOPEnMIC came about?
KU: During the second half of my freshman year, I had met a wonderful poet, Desirae Lee. She founded DOPEnMIC in 2016 and then graduated from UF in 2018. She asked me if I wanted to join the DOPEnMIC team and I said, “Yes!” From there, Desirae and I had grown DOPEnMIC to be what it is now. Besides it being an open mic with a feature, in the past we have given out two scholarships and even held a scholarship poetry contest. We’ve done charity work and fundraising, supporting causes like ending domestic violence and breast cancer as well as local community organizations like the Civic Media Center.
The Avenue: Are there certain literary figures that you admire? Who inspires you?
KU: Shonda Rhimes inspires me to dig deeper of what I want in a story. Also, Toni Morrison. I have a quote of her on my wall. It says, “You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.” Sarah J. Maas is my literary go-to. “Throne of Glass” is such a good series.