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

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

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Sallu Kamuskay
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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.

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.

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Sallu Kamuskay is a Sierra Leonean communication strategist, fixer, blogger, youth organiser, event manager, spokesperson, and public relations expert. His work has been regularly referenced and published by national and international media and public policy institutions. Sallu Kamuskay was a child during the brutal war in Sierra Leone. Growing up in the midst of conflict, Sallu witnessed unimaginable abuse of children and gross violations of human rights. The horrors he witnessed during the Civil War had a terrible impact on him at a very tender age. But despite the shock of the war, Sallu never lost hope. He started on a journey of recovery, studying, and working for a better future. At age 15, Sallu entered into the world of activism and advocacy. Sallu Kamuskay was the Vice President of the Young Leaders Organisation, a member of the National Youth Council. The Young Leaders is one of the oldest youth-led organisations in West Africa. The organisation was formed by a group of young leaders, and launched by the then Head of State/President of Sierra Leone. Sallu was part of the group of young leaders who participated in and contributed to the establishment of the National Youth Council. The Commonwealth supported the training for trainers programme with line ministries and youth stakeholders in which key, representatives of youth council, student union and civil society/private sector youth platforms were engaged and empowered in the effective engagement and inclusion of youth. Sallu is co-founder and Executive Director of the Salone Messenger, a global multimedia and public relations firm based In Sierra Leone. Sallu has worked on various developmental and policy issues such as Poverty, Climate Change, Human rights, Child Rights, Education, Health, Gender Equality, Civic Engagement, Government policies, Information Communication Technology for Development and the Sustainable Development Goals, and has also been contributing to various global events and advocacy campaigns. Sallu Kamuskay is the co-founder and Executive Director of the Salone Messenger, a global Multimedia and Public Relations Firm based in Sierra Leone with the latest news and information, on top stories, business, politics, entertainment, and more. Sallu is working with a leading technology company in Africa, Techfrica, that has recently developed and launched a social media, messaging Supfrica with over 150,000 downloads on the Google play store in less than 4 days. He is the Adviser and Media coordinator for the App to give people the platform to connect and communicate to help shape their future with a very fast internet that allows users that live in deprived and hard-to-reach areas with poor internet facility to be able to communicate as it allows and stronger on 2 and 3 G network reception. Sallu has over 9 years of experience in youth engagement, inclusion, and coordination both at local and global levels, giving voice to young people and engaging young people to build a better world. He has served as coordinator for the Wave Alliance which brought together youth-led organisations who attended an international training in South Africa organized by the International Organization – Waves for Change. Sallu is working with the MLT, Waves For Change, and the Government to develop safe spaces for young people, with a view to contributing to the overall development goals of young people including health, as well as to community rebuilding. Sallu is currently the Programme Director for the Wave Alliance, which is a coalition of youth-led and community-based organisations that have successfully introduced evidence-based Surf Therapy programs to young people in communities, with a focus on mental health, peace building and sustainable development. Sallu is currently the focal point and face of Africa’s Faces Social media platform which is a global Social media platform that brings together people from across the world to share their moments, connect, share videos, and interact with friends giving more preference to excluded continents like Africa. Sallu Kamuskay has devoted his time to working for or contributing to a number of national and international organizations and companies, including the Techfrica Technology Company, United Nations, ECOWAS, European Union, Commonwealth Africa Initiatives. This work has led him to travel to a number of countries to contribute to global youth platforms. Sallu is the lead Coordinator for Peace Tour programme, an initiative supported by the European Union, Africa Union, ECOWAS focusing on uniting and empowering young people and local communities. 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 http://ayvnewspaper.com/index.php/k2-categories/item/7350-america-stress-a-hero-to-recognize. 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.