Poet Sonya Renee Taylor Talks Body Image

Writer: Olivia Hunt, Staff Writer, Sonoma State STAR

Sonya Renee Taylor’s voice echoed off the walls of Person Theater on the evening of August 26. “The body is not an apology,” she said in a powerful tone. 

As soon as she stepped onto the stage, her enthusiasm shined. However, this isn’t the first time Taylor has made her audience light up. 

She has been promoting her movement, “The Body Is Not An Apology,” internationally since 2011, and has also visited prisons, homeless shelters and mental institutions. Hercompany’s content reaches about 200 thousand people weekly in over 147 countries.

Her goal is to impact communities with activism surrounding radical self-love and empowerment through social justice. 

Not only is she a spoken word artist, but an author, humanitarian, social justice activist and educator. She has won multiple national and international poetry slams and released her first book in 2010 entitled, “A Little Truth on Your Shirt.”     

Despite her rising success during the past decade, Taylor has set aside time to causes that she has been committed to since her teenage years. She was the former Capacity Building and Training Director for the Black AIDS Institute—the nation’s only HIV/AIDS organization focused solely on the HIV epidemic in black communities and she has served on the National Board of Directors for the arts and activism organization, Blackout Arts Collective. Taylor is also a teaching artist for an organization in San Francisco that works with incarcerated, at-risk and mentally ill youth in locked and alternative facilities.

Before she begins, Taylor urges everyone to be active participants during her slam poems.  “It’s an exchange of energy,” she says, “like mono.” Once she is concentrated and the audience’s claps and laughter subside, she delivers profound advice about reveling in the small things in life. 

Part of one poem reads, “No matter what you do or create, regardless of how much money you make, the greatest gift you will ever receive is letting the universe teach you how to be delighted.” The topics of her poems range from relationships, life, sex, self love to social issues. She instills powerful teachings in the audience throughout her performance and explains, “My work is like taking us on a journey of what it’s like to be human.” 

During intermission, she took questions from the audience. When asked about her favorite part of poetry Taylor explains, “The power of it. That ability to be razor sharp with language and split someone open is profound to me. The fact that language has that sort of power is enthralling and appealing to me.” 

Sophomore Kylie McCabe asked, “How do you get money from being an activist?” To which Taylor while laughing said, “You don’t! But we do have a digital magazine, social network forums, workshops and community building. What’s important to us is that we are transforming people’s lives.” 

When asked why she wanted to become a slam poet, Taylor responded that she didn’t even know it had a name until her boss at work asked people to get involved in a poetry related assignment, to which she reluctantly agreed. 

She recalls that she was viscerally nervous and was shocked when people came up to her after asking where to get copies of her poems. said Taylor,  “It’s that feeling when Pepe Le Pew falls in love with the skunk and chases her around.” 

Taylor then tells the audience that she proceeded to go to an open mic every night for the next ten years. She ended her performanceby emphasizing people’s ability to make a change, “Get your words out of the journal and into the world. The world needs your thoughts, they are important and vital.” Sophomore Taylor Newman said that she “was moved by the performance” and was “thoroughly pleased” that she attended the event.

 Bringing the movement “The Body is Not an Apology” to Sonoma State was a step forward in empowering students to dedicate themselves to a social issue that resonates with them.