Phonetic Wisdom: Hofstra Alum Sabrina Sadé Speaks Her Truth
“Honesty is the best policy,” 23-year-old Sabrina Sadé said to me on the second floor of the Sondra and David S. Mack Student Center, overlooking the students that walked in and out, each leading their own lives. “In this day and age, in this political climate, no one is neutral. No one can be neutral,” she said. “You’re either inactive and keeping the world the way it is, or you’re looking at the role you play in society while attempting to make a change.”
I first saw Sadé, who performs under the name Phonetic Wisdom, speak at the Collegiate Women of Color’s World AIDS Day Gala in December of 2017. Her poem, “Honest Conscience,” was raw, genuine and strikingly vivid, as were her words about being a woman of color, conveying such candor regarding personal relationships. Sadé graduated from Hofstra in 2016 with a major in Psychology and minor in Business and now performs frequently as a poet and artist of spoken word, also running her own organization. The way she believes she can make change in society is through her writing and through her art.
“I was 12 the first time I wrote poetry,” Sadé said. “I remember it was my way of coping. My family didn’t understand me.” Hailing from Far Rockaway, Queens, Sadé was the youngest in her family of one sister and five brothers. “I was the black sheep of the family, I was the rebel,” she said. “I’m more open-minded than they are, and I question a lot. Because of this I began writing introspectively. My writing then reflected how society views me as a black person and as a black woman.”
Sadé grew up as the only child of both her mother and father, finding it difficult living in a blended family. “As I grew, I realized through my writing that there were so many societal standards I didn’t fit into as a black woman. There were so many layers to my frustration,” she said.
Inspired by the poetic work of Maya Angelou and Alice Walker and music of Kendrick Lamar and Tupac Shakur, Sadé was able to develop her identity as a young writer. “I mostly wrote about love, the idea of it and wanting to be loved. It became more about sharing my words about the pain I had experienced in relationships throughout my life,” she said.
Sadé graduated from high school in 2012 and started her freshman year at Hofstra that same year. “I joined the slam poetry club, Spit! at Hofstra in my first year,” Sadé said. “It was then I started developing confidence in myself as a writer, as a performer and as a person.”
Active in her community, Sadé also joined the African Student Association here at Hofstra. “I was a part of ASA when it was fresh and new and have now watched it grow. It’s great to think how it gave me chances to perform and host events, preparing myself for the performances I am a part of now,” she said.
The Black Student Union, as well as a special internship called WORTH (Women on the Rise Telling HerStory) in New York City, also inspired Sadé. “That internship gave me the chance to meet women who had been incarcerated and used writing as an outlet to cope with violence they were subject to in the past,” she said. “It deeply helped me see how we can all find empathy for one another and use it to foster confidence within ourselves.”
Now a successful performer in New York City, Sadé continues to inspire audiences by relating to them and writing about concepts other women her age know quite well. “I usually write about how I feel about myself. We’re all so afraid of how people see us, that sometimes we forget how we see us and that we often have to change the way we see ourselves to become who we are meant to be,” Sadé said. “Self-examination and confidence is truly so important.”
Sadé writes to lift those who listen to her. “I’m all about female empowerment. It is one of my duties to uplift women as a woman,” she said.
Currently working on a fiction book, performing poetry readings multiple times a month and writing frequently, Sadé gave advice for those who want to be writers, performers and those who inspire others.
“Let whatever is on your heart hit the paper. Don’t second guess yourself,” she said. “Often, so often, writers feel that their work is not good enough and compare it to other work, but writing is an art that cultivates the more you do it.”
“The more you write, the better you become at articulating yourself,” Sadé said. “Changing the world you live in always starts with being honest about what is going on. Just look at “Still I Rise”, “Phenomenal Woman” and even “The Color Purple.” Remember to always be raw, open and to always be honest.”
Sadé will perform at five events this month. She sometimes returns to Hofstra for different social justice groups and events. She provided one last piece of advice with a smile: “Don’t think. Just write.”