Emiley Allison, Great Bridge High School senior, understands early on the power of her voice. Striving to use art as a catalyst for story-telling and empowerment, Allison breaks the mold as a photographer, actress, dancer, and spoken word artist. Preparing to compete in the Brave New Voices spoken word competition this summer in Philadelphia, Allison embodies every aspect of bravery by simply raising her voice.
As a native to Chesapeake, Virginia, Emiley Allison has captured the hearts of her community through her artistry. “I began speaking in church at a very young age. My parents taught me to speak up and not let myself be talked over. That has really influenced the diction that I have now. They taught me to always have a purpose when I talk and to have a stance.” These early lessons have shaped her confidence and paved a way to pursue a passion with slam poetry. Allison was also exposed to dance at a young age. “I used to compete for a few years but I stopped. It was more about technique and less about emotion. I wanted to use dance as a way of telling a story instead.” Her exposure to the arts has continued to play an important role in her life, as she continues to dance and write but also adopted theater and photography to her list of passionate pastimes. Since then, Allison has been employed to shoot at different events and capture special moments such as weddings and birthday parties.
“When I started slam poetry, I used to think ‘what if they don’t understand what I am saying?’ and I would get really nervous that they wouldn’t like me. Now, I don’t care for any type of negative energy.”
Many of her family members work for the education system. As a result, Allison has been exposed to different issues that surround the system and its influence on the advancement of brown people. “I would always overhear my parents and grandparents having conversation about the education system and people of color. They would talk about single parenthood and how it sometimes turns into a cycle with their children.
Listening in on these conversations influenced me to do my own research on these issues and learn more about how people of color are unfairly disadvantaged.” Her research and personal experiences has led her to use her voice to shed light on these issues. As a result, she managed to mix poetry with politics and use her passion as a platform.
Set to begin her freshmen year at Virginia Commonwealth University in the fall, Allison plans to major in Psychology and minor in Dance and Choreography. In preparation, she realizes the need to step her game up and face the fact that it will only get harder from here. “I’ve been blessed with a brain that doesn’t always have to work really hard to get good grades. I know that in college, I’ll have to work a lot harder.” As for her poetry, Allison uses this time to sharpen her skills and continue to write. She also expands the content of her writing by engaging in different conversations and becoming knowledgeable of different issues that she wishes to speak out against. “I want to make sure I know what I am talking about and if someone were to challenge me, I have information to back myself up.”
As an artist, Allison stresses the importance of trusting the product of your work and being able to connect with yourself. Art is much more than how your audience perceives it, but also about how it makes you, the creator, feel. For Allison, art feeds her the idea that she, too, can be a work of art. “Art helps me to see who I am in a brighter light and space. I used to be really insecure but with art, I realize that I am much more. If I can create something that is beauty, then I can be beauty as well.” It is evident that art reaches much more than the eye but also touches the heart. Allison strives to see others in this light as well and to approach them with that same mentality.
It is easy for artists to be sensitive about their work. Allison has come to realize that what she creates is good enough. Slam poetry pushes the artist to become vulnerable and give pieces of themselves to the audience. “When I started slam poetry, I used to think ‘what if they don’t understand what I am saying?’ and I would get really nervous that they wouldn’t like me. Now, I don’t care for any type of negative energy.” Allison is an advocate for promoting art education in public schools, especially for children of color. “It teaches children that they don’t always have to follow certain parameters.” For other like-minded artists, Allison offers the advice of taking risks and trusting your truth. “If what you want is positive and you know it will be good for you in the end, then do it, even if it makes you uncomfortable. Continue to do what you do without stopping. There’s going to be a point in time where you will need it. Create an arsenal of your work.”
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