How Queer People of Color Heal Through Poetry

By Cindy Elizabeth

Spring is one of my favorite times of the year. For me, it represents a time of rebirth and transformation, providing us the opportunity to shake off the coldness of winter and welcome the warmth of a new, healing sun. If that’s not enough, spring also kicks off with Women’s History Month, Black Women’s History Month, and National Poetry Month.

LGBTQ communities of color have a deep history of healing through the arts, so in recognition of National Poetry Month, I wanted to honor the relationships queer people of color have with healing through poetry. I asked various QPOC in Austin to share one of their favorite poems with me with the intention of interpreting them visually through the art of photography.

Carolyn Davis

To S. M., A Young African Painter, on Seeing His Works

By Phillis Wheatly

For Carolyn Davis, this poem is both “fascinating and beautiful because of the way it defines black futurity on an eternal landscape”. Davis is moved by the idea of “muse inspiring friendship through art.” Touched by the life and artistry of S.M., Wheatley creates a lasting image of the young painter through her words and Davis wanted to honor the legacy of this exchange by recreating the portrait of Wheatley, the first African-American woman to publish a book of poetry.

Photo By Cindy Elizabeth

Carolyn Davis is a podcaster and historian of queer friendship.

Jasmin Patel


By Tracy K. Smith

Jasmin Patel connects with the “melancholic feel” of this poem. For people who often face oppression, sometimes it feels that all there is to do is “retreat into our lives and continue to live the best way we know how…and do things to make [us] happy. What we experience is fleeting.”

Photo by Cindy Elizabeth

Jasmin Patel is a first generation Indian-American and Georgia native.

Gabi Padilla

Quote from the documentary, A Litany for Survival: The Life and Work of Audre Lorde

by Audre Lorde

Lorde spoke these words not long before she passed away due to cancer-related complications. This quote symbolizes the “end of life, death, and what happens after that” for Gabi Padilla. It also speaks to accepting the journey of your spirit when you are “not so certain” of what that may be. These words help Padilla remember to let the Universe “do what it does.”

Photo by Cindy Elizabeth

Gabi Padilla is a brown (Mexican-American) queer producer and MC born and raised in Austin, Texas.

Tameika Hannah

Sonia Sanchez, Prologue to Morning Haiku:

The first thing Tameika Hannah thinks of when reading this poem are smiles, inner joy, and happiness. She imagines herself “moving through the world, confidence up. Moving ‘cause that’s all I know to do…What’s the best way to wear the day when so much around you is heavy?”


Photo by Cindy Elizabeth

Tameika Hannah is a poet, artist, and writer creating in Austin, TX.

Will Mosley

When My Brother Fell

Essex Hemphill, Ceremonies

Will Mosley often closes his eyes to bear witness to Hemphill’s above ode to his loved one, Joseph Bean, who died of HIV-related complications. To Mosley, this poem feels like a hymn, giving insight on the best ways to think about friendship and memory. Reflecting on When My Brother Fell, “a meditation on mourning the loss” of Bean, Mosley can’t help but to think about how he is only one generation removed from the many people who were mourned, or were in mourning of, the loved ones they lost. Mosley states, “HIV/AIDS is still present, but our generation is a little more prepared and more knowledgeable.” This reality, along with the profound words of Hemphill, gives Mosley hope and makes him brave as he moves through the world in his body.

Photo by Cindy Elizabeth

Will Mosley is an Aries-sun, Black and queer culture aficionado from Bridgeport, CT.

View more photos from this series: Healing Through Poetry.

Special thanks to allgo for the opportunity and to enakshi ganguly for assisting with the shoots.

What are some of your favorite poems that bring you healing? Share with us as we end the month of April on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!