It was playwright John Dayo-Aliya’s goal as he took the stage last Thursday that each member of the audience would learn something from his words.
“Not only can we learn from each other, but we must,” Dayo-Aliya said.
Wendy Wilson-Fall, Associate Professor and Chair of Africana Studies, introduced her former student, John Dayo-Aliya, with eagerness and enthusiasm. Dayo-Aliya is a poet, actor, singer, and playwright from Akron, Ohio.
Dayo-Aliya has been an opening act for HBO’s Def Poetry Jam performers, in addition to a plethora of achievements in music, journalism, and poetry. He read six of his own poems and one essay during the presentation.
When Dayo-Aliya stood at front of the room, he did not merely read his poems. He performed them. His background in theatre quickly became evident through his emotional presentation.
“Dayo-Aliya’s words have the power to move even the most stubborn resisters of poetry. The delivery of his carefully crafted essays and poems silenced the audience into awe and appreciation,” Torera Fagbenle ‘17 said. “It was poetry in motion, and covered a range of themes in which each of us found a relatable facet that could apply to our own mundane and wonderful lives.”
It seems unlikely that Dayo-Aliya’s emotional poems about the struggles of African American youth, transgender issues, and suicidal situations could relate to all listeners. However the passion behind each word evoked questions about the greater purpose of life that are universal to everyone.
Dayo-Aliya also read an essay he wrote about American novelist James Baldwin.The essay was lighthearted and glorified Baldwin as being an inspiration for Dayo-Aliya’s own writing.
Dayo-Aliya first discovered Baldwin in his English class as a freshman in high school after complaining to his teacher about the classical works they had been reading. He could not find transcendence in the pages of those books – he simply could not relate to them. When his teacher suggested Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, Dayo-Aliya’s life was changed forever.
Ultimately, Dayo-Aliya was successful in his goal to create a dialogue between himself and his audience by sharing personal experiences and feelings. Dayo-Aliya’s honesty was supported by his self-inflicted duty to represent himself, his people, his struggles, and humanity from his perspective.
The event was part of the 2013 David L. Sr. and Helen J. Temple Visiting Lecture Series and Africana Studies.