Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 27th 2014 Contents | PROFILES |
By Onika Nkrumah-Lakhan
In her own words, Tianna Cohen-Paul, aka MissQuote, has been on both
sides of opulence and depravity. Already on the corporate fast track, she
overheard a conversation that would change her life forever. "I had been
promised bonuses and incentives to achieve certain goals, but when I ac-
complished them, they didn't want to pay and were plotting to get rid of
me". This conspiracy sent Tianna into panic mode; she was hospitalised. Re-
lieved to hear that it was only an anxiety attack, she decided that since "cor-
porations run without a heartbeat, it's time to do something for me."
Fortified by the adage, "fortune favours the brave", she quit her six-figure
position as a Vice President at a University to travel, doing the things that
really matter, like human rights advocacy. From her difficult childhood to
finding fulfilment through the spoken word, MissQuote has learnt to turn
her lemons into tequila shots!
ON-L: Did friends and family think you were crazy when you decided to
MissQuote: Absolutely; they thought I'd lost my marbles, but ultimately they
supported my decision. Faith became my driving force.
ON-L: Tell me about Fly By Mic?
MissQuote: It's the name of our world tour as well as our foundation to as-
sist artists. We've visited 57 countries. Fly by Mic is involved in volunteerism,
working with abused women and children, teaching poetry. My desire is to
show that spoken word can be viable. You can follow your dream. There's a
certain freedom that comes from that.
ON-L: How do you advocate for woman and children?
MissQuote: In India, for example, we went to the slums to do motivational
speaking and teach. To ensure the continuation of the work that we have
begun, we partner with certain organizations; they maintain the momentum
that we create. In many countries, you find that the influence of foreigners
shames people into action, but after the cameras have gone, it's back to
business as normal. But also, a domino effect is created and other philan-
thropists are moved to join the cause.
ON-L: Is there any difference between spoken word and poetry. If so, what?
MissQuote: Spoken word is rhythmic; it's a different expression --- such a
liberating feeling. The classical understanding of poetry is born out of intro-
spect and sensitivity, it can be about rhyming, it's classical. Spoken word is
more theatrical with unadulterated narratives, you never know what you're
going to get at an Open Mic. It's about storytelling but there's an evangelical
aspect. I would do a piece about sex abuse and someone could identify. How
would I otherwise reach these people, without sharing my testimony?
ON-L: How did you get into spoken word?
MissQuote: By going through adversity, living out of my car after just emi-
grating from Jamaica, no stability, growing up in boarding schools. I cried a
lot. One day, I went to an Open Mic. The now deceased Will da Real One en-
couraged me. He said, "You have the power to get people to empathise. "
ON-L: At one of your performances, the Prime Minister of Jamaica, Portia
Simpson-Miller was moved to tears. How do you feel about your ability to
MissQuote: I'm able to convey my feelings; I have the gift of gab and a gift
of discernment, I use those platforms for the greater good. I don't want to
just speak; I want to propel people to action. The poem in question was
penned when I was only 16! It's called 'Caribbean Woman'. The Prime Min-
ister said to me, "Jamaica needs you; we need you. Where have you been?"
ON-L: Who is your greatest inspiration?
MissQuote: God guides me to my inspirations. Like a lady in India who was
sweeping during a sandstorm. When I questioned the futility, she said "Could
you imagine how it would accumulate if I didn't sweep?"
ON-L: What are your career highlights to date?
MissQuote: It's the friendships I've made that keep me propelled. Also, my
book in progress, 'Anarchy of a Bitten Tongue', is about my sexual molesta-
tion from 2 to 16 years old. Keeping the guilt inside, trying not to be con-
frontational and avoid conflicts. In retrospect, you want to say so much, but
you hold your tongue. It's about the liberation of my tongue and heart, my
MissQuote will be performing at the Cascadoo's Caribbean New Voices
International Festival of Spoken Word from August 10th-16th. The full
schedule, as well as Miss Quote's profile, can be found on Facebook
16 | WOW MAGAZINE
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt July 27, 2014
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