INTERVIEW WITH ANTONIA VALAIRE / AKA CHRISTENA WILLIAMS
What type of poet do you consider yourself to be?
I consider myself as a poet meaning while I may ascribe to the labels of spoken word or dub poet. I truly believe I am a poet who is capable to write on many topics in many styles and in many formats.
When did you know you wanted to be a poet?
Poetry has always been my passion as long as I can remember and I believe age ten was when I wrote the most. In the back of my mind poetry was just a hobby, then when I was 17, I won a community talent competition and by age 19, I got my first poem, “Heart Surgeon” published in The Gleaner newspaper of Jamaica. That is the age it was official in my mind and by age 20, published my first collection of poetry, Pearls Among Stones by Brian Wrixon from Canada, and by age 21, I was awarded the Prime Ministers National Youth awards in Excellence for Arts and Culture.
When did you start writing poetry?
I began my journey as a poet at the early age of ten.
What inspires you to write?
When I was ten, I was inspired to write because of my surroundings, situations and perception as a child. Most of my tentative years I was sheltered which led to me reading books and doing a lot of drawings and paintings. When I was around 15, I believe I was inspired by Maya Angelou’s, “I Rise” and wrote a poem with the same name and one day my Mom’s friends came and she told me to read my poem I rise, for the friend, by the time I was finish the friend began weeping, (sister Sophia). It was an overwhelming experience as within that moment I realized that I could no longer write just for me but to be inspired by the people around me and what I saw on the world stage. I am also inspired by anything and anyone because inspirations have no limitations. One of my greatest inspiration is the master architect, The Lord, my creator who inspired great ones such as, “A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great. Proverbs 18:16.
What message are you sending to your readers?
My message is uplifting one’s ambition to the highest level in gratitude to the lord, also being an activist and people of integrity to stand up for their human rights and for others. Essentially, in the end for us to be united as a people and just is HUMAN.
What do you think are some of humanity’s vital issues and do you have any solutions?
Wow, that sounds like a complex question with many intricacies, variables and levels of layers to be dissected. But one I will go with that we struggle with, “LOVE” not romantic love just Love as in to love one’s self and to love others. Everything begins there. Without love is causing all these chaos and spinoff, so all these racism, sexism, corruption, political divide, even poverty… my solution, I wonder if it is practical and feasible and simple. Love is something that people feel and experience and know through sharing. For me growing in a dysfunctional home while I feel love from my mom and brothers I still feel a big void so my solution is that it requires one’s own inspection and introspection, people being a bit kinder and try to be empathetic a bit more, more encouragement of family orientation, building parks to encourage family and community sharing and oral traditions. Young and old in one space to learn from each generations that can foster empathy. Also, government subsidize for people to go in and get therapy to talk on family and mental illness as to getting the help they need to better themselves, family and community, hence the world. Change may begin with us but change is small steps and requires awareness that one has issues and needs to change but need all hands on deck including all sectors of society to get a domino effect.
What do you think needs to be addressed, in order to promote and support change in Jamaica?
Very broad question with lots of layers to unpack. Well change requires mindset so for anything to change it requires a change in mindset. We have to develop vision and positive mindset of ourselves as African descendants and or overall how we view ourselves in the space we exist and co-exist with other races. We also have to build a brand new Jamaica with the intention for it to benefit the people of Jamaica. Change also comes from government officials, polices, revamped our laws, and stake holders being more involved. We also have to guide a sense of belonging and knowing our History as Kings and Queens and that take our educational system to now be a catalyst of that change. Far too long we use racist laws, structures, systems and education to control our people. The curriculum needs to be reevaluated and to be restructured to fit its populations needs, such as learning African History, finances, wealth investment, money management, family dynamics, conflict resolution, etc. We need to learn the real world while we are in school. We need to be prepared and ready to compete with rest of the world through skill set, soft skills, technical skills and sense of identity. When one does not know who they are then one cannot be comfortable to excel.
What are your view on creativity and Entrepreneurship?
Too many times as creatives we just create and we do not delve into the entrepreneurial side of things so we lose out. I strongly believe that we must equip ourselves as best as possible to the IN’s and Out’s of our industry so no one can pull wool over our eyes. Sometimes, you do not have a team or the money so you have to do all of it yourself. There are courses on Hub Spot Academy, Google, etc. and for those who live in Jamaica, HEART and Kingston Creative offer courses in marketing and social media. It is good to promote your work and get cash in hand or online.
What was your most learning and or teaching moment?
The importance of prayer before you leaves out to work or go to school and also patience. December 20th, 2011, I was held-up woth a gun to my head. I was probably 18, and attending summer work. I was waiting on my brother at home, then mom called him back and I felt I could not wait any longer and unbeknownst to me my mom was praying for my brother. Thank God I survived but unfortunately the thief was dead within 30 minutes after leaving me, to rob others at a nearby community. He only took my phone.
What advice would you give, to the youths today?
Find yourself work and stick by it. Be someone of integrity and a leader. Stop following negativity, bad company, bad behavior and trends and lifestyle that do not befit you in the long run. Be that guy who is himself even if people ridicule or laugh at you. Still be you and be the best version of you.
What are your hobbies and favorite things to do?
I love visiting different places in my country, watching T.V.;such as black and white mystery shows, westerns, hallmark mystery, mystery and detective shows with mom, such as Murder She Wrote, Perry mason, Matlock, reading books, writing poetry, performing spoken word on stage, surfing the net, researching and reading on various topics, social media surfing, Google searching, listening to music, watching documentaries and interviews on YouTube, WhatsApp, reasoning with friends, family and elders, having my Facebook live Show ,” The Verandah Conversations” and, watching both men and women football and track and field on T.V., doing some personal and professional courses, sleeping, studying reading my bible, praying, having moments where I introspect, recording, editing, mixing poetry to upload to social media, podcasting, social media networking, figuring out to use apps, platforms and websites like canva, streamyard etc.
How are you fulfilling or contributing to your life’s purpose?
I am fulfilling by listening to the voice of God, reading by bible, praying and fellowshipping with my church brothers and sisters to improve my spiritual, mental and emotional well being. God has already ordained my destiny so I have to continue walking in that part and doing what I am purpose to do as poetry is my ministry and whatever else God will reveal in the right time for me to pursue.
What books, albums, or videos do you have available and where can we find them?
Books available on Amazon:
Pearls Among Stones, Black Gold, Out From Babylon System Liberation of Mind
YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/PoetAntoniaValaire
Facebook writer’s page, Christena Williams, https://www.facebook.com/worldclasspoet
Podcast Page: THE VERANDAH CONVERSATIONS • A podcast on Anchor
Link tree: @Antoniavalaire | Linktree
Website: Home | Antonia Valaire’s Poetry Corner (wixsite.com)
And there you have it everyone, a brief, yet deep look into this awesome Creative. We thank you Antonia Valaire aka Christena Williams, for sharing yourself with our viewers and readers.
“Friendship Among Nations” Poem written by Elizabeth Esguerra Castillo & Shahid Abbas. Recited by Antonia Valaire.