A Day in the Life of Producer, Poet, and Shop Owner Noni Williamston
“We know Tongue is a political erotic series. It’s not porn on the mic, but it’s a stretch for intersectionality. So how do we address that as beings?” Noni Williamston, founder of the production company Newark Women in Film, asked her poetry group as they prepared for their show on Black kink on February 22, titled “Tongue.” “Our theme is, in order to decolonize our minds, we have to decolonize our bodies,” she said. She later explained this meant that sexuality and the role of the body are often not discussed in the conversation about eradicating racism, however, she says it should be.
The women congregated in Williamston’s Newark, NJ home that morning to practice and refine their poems. Williamston adorned her dining room with posters from her internationally recognized film production company. Williamston considers herself an “ethical entrepreneur” as she not only runs her female-centered film company, but also owns a store which sells organic beauty products, and organizes for-profit events for her poetry group. Her film organization produces films coming solely from Newark women while her poetry group venerates the voices of Newark women writers. “The literacy rate in Newark is so low compared to the places around us,” Williamston said and continued, “I hope me and my women can help change that.”
D’or, one Williamston’s oldest friends in the group, rehearsed a poem with a rap embedded within it. She was unbashful as she bellowed out lines about sex and her own body. “It’s all about how you were raised,” D’or said before she began her poem. “I’m extremely comfortable with my body. As soon as I find out there’s a naked room at a club, my friends already know I’m going to be gone for the night.”
“As a writer, I believe words can go anywhere. Today’s word is fluid. Words are fluid, language is fluid,” Williamston said as she prepared the heat press used to create the t-shirts she planned on selling at the show.
At around 6:00 p.m. the women of Tongue migrated to the Mocha Lounge where they’d be reading their array of political erotic pieces and marketing their own merchandise. Williamston displayed her hand-made, organic beauty products which she sells at her store in Newark, The Conscious Room. Williamston explained how there is a myriad of avenues to “decolonizing your body,” one being poetry, another being skin care.
Newark locals began to flock into the confines of Mocha lounge, transforming the coffee shop into a stage for Black kink poetry. “I love the people of Newark,” Williamston said. “I came here from Texas and I noticed right away that it was all Black people here. But there’s Black Caribbean, Black Puerto Rican, Black Mexican—there’s so much diversity within our community.”
Williamston and D’or prepared for the show by checking the mics. D’or had to ensure that everything was in place for her first piece, where she would enter the room strolling down the stairs and fanning herself with a black lace fan while “It’s a Man’s Man’s World” played in the background.
Williamston opened the show by introducing herself by her stage name, Poet on Watch and proclaiming a phrase she repeatedly stated throughout the night, “If your Black revolution does not include Black women, queer people, or people with disabilities, then it is simply white supremacy with a darker face.”
After seven different poets take the stage and fill the room with their thoughts on racial inequality, the politics of sex and what it means to be both black and queer, Williamston finishes the show with her poem, “What I Want in my Bed.” The audience began to snap as she read out the lines, “Turning over to your morning joy with sunshine beaming through my gapped teeth.”
Williamston hoped that her audience would receive the piece with the same excitement she felt while writing it. “Whatever energy we put into our work as creators, that’s the energy people will get out of it,” said Williamston. “I cannot create something that destroys me. What is that going to do for me, my work, or the people consuming it?”