Emtithal “Emi” Mahmoud is a Sudanese-American poet and activist. Her family fled Darfur for Yemen when she was a toddler and they moved to the United States in 1998. She attended school in Philadelphia and in 2011 won a scholarship to fund her attending Yale University to study anthropology and molecular biology. While at Yale she encountered spoken word poetry for the first time, joining the university’s slam poetry team. In 2015 Emi won the Individual World Poetry Slam in Washington D.C. with her poem “Mama”, inspired by her mother’s experience in Sudan. She also won the Women of the World Poetry Slam in New York in 2016, breaking three world records for the two victories as the youngest winner of both competitions and the first to hold the championship titles concurrently. 2018 saw Mahmoud publish Sisters’ Entrance, her first collection of poems.
Beyond her poetry Mahmoud has received international attention for her activism. In 2015 the BBC named Emi one of the 100 most inspirational women across the world. In 2016 she was one of twelve American Muslims invited to join Barack Obama in Baltimore to speak at a roundtable as part of his first presidential visit to a mosque. The same year she recited one of her poems at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. In 2018 the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees appointed her their Goodwill Ambassador and in this capacity she has travelled to and spoken at refugee camps around the world. Mahmoud is also a committed advocate for ending conflict in Sudan and engaging in peace talks. In 2017 she held the first fully inclusive civilian peace talks in Sudan as part of her One Girl Walk and Dreams for Peace initiatives. A year later she walked 1000 kilometres from Darfur to Khartoum in 30 days to raise awareness for the struggles of Sudanese people displaced by conflict. More recently she has engaged in environmental activism, performing a poem called “Di Baladna” (Our Land) at COP26 in 2021.
Leave a Reply.
Charlie is a first year History student at Oxford University. He researched and wrote this article as part of the Oxford University Micro Internship programme.