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Yalie Saweda Kamara becomes the first Sierra Leonean to be inaugurated Poet Laureate of Cincinnati Mercantile Library 2022-23

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Yalie Saweda Kamara becomes the first Sierra Leonean to be inaugurated Poet Laureate of Cincinnati Mercantile Library 2022-23

Yalie Saweda Kamara is a Sierra Leonean-American writer, educator, and researcher from Oakland, California and the 2022-2023 Cincinnati and Mercantile Library Poet Laureate (2-year term). A Taft Dissertation Completion Fellow and Philanthropic Educational Organization Named Scholar, she received her Ph.D. in Creative Writing (poetry) and English Literature at the University of Cincinnati.

Yalie Saweda Kamara is the author of two collections of poetry, A Brief Biography of My Name (Akashic Books/African Poetry Book Fund, 2018), which is a part of the New-Generation African Poets: A Chapbook Box Set (Tano) series and When The Living Sing (Ledge Mule Press, 2017) and the editor of the forthcoming anthology, What You Need to Know About Me: Youth Writers on Their Experiences of Migration (The Hawkins Project, 2022). Kamara has been a finalist for the National Poetry Series competition (2020) and the Brunel International African Poetry Prize (2017), and a semifinalist for the Cave Canem Poetry Prize (2021). She has received fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center, the National Book Critics Circle Emerging Critics Fellow and Callaloo (poetry). Kamara has garnered Pushcart prize and Best of Net anthology nominations.

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In addition to being a featured poet at the 2020 Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival, Yalie Saweda Kamara‘s poetry, fiction, interviews, and translations have either appeared or are forthcoming in The Adroit Journal, Callaloo, A Journal of African Diaspora Arts and Letters, Furious Flower: Seeding the Future of African American Poetry, Black Camera: An International Journal, Puerto del Sol and elsewhere.

She earned an MFA in Creative Writing (poetry) from Indiana University, Bloomington and an MA in French Culture and Civilization from Middlebury College.

In between her studies, she worked in the field of social justice specializing in educational access and arts facilitation. She has lived in France, Brazil, and the US, and has a particularly soft spot for Oakland, Washington DC, Paris, and the Midwest.

Taking on her Linkind. she said

“A huge, soulful, heartfelt, thank you to my family, dear friends, and new friends who joined me in person and online for my inauguration as the Poet Laureate of Cincinnati. It was one of the most special and gorgeous nights of my life. And likely a historical one—I believe I am the first Sierra Leonean-American adult (I see you former YPL Hannah Sawyerr!) to hold a Poet Laureate position in the US.

My overwhelming gratitude to the Mercantile Library for creating such a warm and inspiring ambiance, to John Faherty, ED of the Mercantile Library, for bookending the night with urgent and necessary words, to Mayor Pureval for such a brilliant and resonant introduction, to Manuel Iris and Pauletta Hansel for ushering me in with such thoughtfulness and care. And to my lovely mother and sister for carrying me—there is no thank you large enough.

To Cincinnati: I can’t wait to dream and build with you and to learn from you again and again. Thank you for believing in me. May I pay every blessing forward.”

Since 2015, the Mercantile Library has partnered in Cincinnati’s Poet Laureate program, hosting the inductions of Pauletta Hansel (2016-’18) and Manuel Iris (2018-’21). We are honored to support and provide a home for the newly imagined Cincinnati and Mercantile Library Poet Laureate Program going forward.  Learn more about the program to date and about the Poet Laureates here.

Sallu Kamuskay

Sallu Kamuskay is a Sierra Leonean activist, storyteller, and blogger. He was born in Sierra Leone but later relocated to Guinea as a refugee because of the war in his country. Sallu Kamuskay uses his phone to engage on social media, under the name ‘’Salone Messenger’. He Co-Founded the Salone Messenger platform after his experience of the war, Ebola, and injustices. According to him, silence was the root cause of war, and of many social injustices, we continue to face as a nation. In 2013, during the Ebola crisis, Sallu Kamuskay took the risk and volunteered to fight Ebola. He spent some months in both safe and unsafe places; helping the victims and telling their sad stories. The election in 2018, left a divided country with communities fighting on tribal lines. This inspired Sallu Kamuskay to serve as the coordinator of the United Sierra Leone peace concert, which was organized in 4 major parts of the country, targeting violent communities and troubled youth. Sallu Kamuskay led a group of entertainers, activists, and organizations across the country on a peace tour, a program supported by the European Union, United Sierra Leone, Africa Union, ECOWAS, and the Messeh Leone Trust. Sallu Kamuakay has also served as a staff writer for the Hidden Voices Magazine. Over the years, Sallu Kamuskay has been using his Techno phone to be able to tell stories, the phone he used to tell the story of Gbessay during Ebola who was admitted at one of the Ebola treatment centers after rumors that she had Ebola when the actual sickness was ulcer, she was almost abandoned at the treatment canter with no medication provided to her. She could have died. Sallu told the story via social media and was able to secure funding from the United Sierra Leone to buy her medication and advocated for her. She was later discharged and taken home, He did the same to a patient that died and was abandoned in the street, Sallu Kamuskay used his phone and shared the message across, the corps was later taken and buried. It could have been more disaster without his voice. The story of late America Stress 3-year-old daughter. The hero’s daughter was abandon after his father's death. He shared her sad story and was able to get a sister who has taken the child as her own and is currently providing her with educational support. The article of America Stress can be read on the link below Sallu Kamuskay feels the stories of Gbessay, America stress and that of many others need to be told. The media house we have cannot better tell these stories, they are better reporters than telling human interest stories. He created the Salone Messenger platform and brought together passionate storytellers to be able to tell these compelling stories.

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