Meet Boonaa Mohammed (pronounced Bo-naa), a spoken word poet and playwright from Toronto, Canada. Boonaa means “proud,” but not the arrogant kind. Boonaa’s parents gave him this name because they received a lot of prejudice as minorities in Oromia, Ethopia, and they wanted Boonaa to be proud of who he was and where he came from. Later in life he attended Oakwood Collegiate Institute, and was Valedictorian of his school’s graduating class.
Boonaa wanted to be a rapper when he was younger and studied performing arts in university. After performing one of his songs without music, his teacher commented that it was cool, and that it sounded like “spoken word.” Boonaa learned about spoken word and slowly became more interested in being a poet than a singer. Soon he was participating in poetry slam contests.
Boonaa performs his award-winning poems and stories all over the world and his poetry videos have been viewed over a million times on YouTube. Boonaa also considers himself a storyteller and believes that the tradition of storytelling is tied deeply to his African roots. In an interview on his website, Boonaa encourages people that, “Whatever you do, just be true to your own message and purpose. Every company or organisation, when starting out, writes a mission statement; what will be your personal one? As long as you are able to stick to your principles and morals, you will find yourself doing what you love no matter the cost.”
You can see Boonaa perform on his website, Boonaa.com.
Mission Statement: A written or spoken intention for a business, group or individual.
Oromia, Ethiopia: Oromia is one of the nine ethnically-based regions of Ethiopia, and about half of the residents are Muslim.
Poetry Slam: A competition in which poets recite their poems and members of the audience vote on a winner.
Spoken Word: A performance art that generally includes story-telling and/or poetry.
Valedictorian: The title given to the student – usually the top student of the class – who addresses his or her class at the graduation ceremony, from the Latin vale dicere (“to say farewell”).
Click HERE to check out and help Boonaa with his dream project of creating ‘Safina Media’-an Islamic media production company!
Badier G.B.E. lives in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco where he does a style of homeschooling called “hackschooling.” His favourite subjects are electronics, sustainable energy, crafting, chemistry, permaculture, hiking and bike riding.
This article originally appeared in the June 2013 issue of Discover (the magazine for curious Muslim kids.)