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New Zealand schoolgirl’s spoken-word poem about racism sends powerful message

Photo Credit: Race Unity Speech awards/YouTube

New Zealand schoolgirl’s spoken-word poem about racism sends powerful message

A New Zealand high school student's spoken-word poem about racism has been heard around the globe by over half a million people.

New Zealand schoolgirl’s spoken-word poem about racism sends powerful message

“Yesterday I was African, today I am lost,” Zimbabwe-born Takunda Muzondiwa tells an Auckland audience. A video of her describing the racism she has faced in her adopted country has been seen by hundreds of thousands.

The Mt Albert Grammar School student, gave a speech on racism on May 11 at Auckland’s Te Mahurehure Marae.

The spoken-word poem was part of the New Zealand Human Rights Commission’s annual Race Unity Speech awards, where six of the country’s best high school speakers addressed how race relations could be improved.

Every year the speech awards adopt a theme, this years it was “Speaking for Justice, Working for Unity”.

“Maybe I was blinded by the neon sign of opportunity, failed to read the fine print that read: ‘Assimilate or go back where you came from,'” she said.

Watch the spoken-word poem

Comments posted online have praised the young woman with many hailing the speech as “powerful” and others as one of the best spoken word performances they have ever heard.

She delivered a poem she wrote to “the man who sat behind me on the train last week who had the audacity to touch my hair without even asking”. 

“I didn’t say anything, which is crazy because I almost always have something to say,” she said.

“In that moment, like my split ends, my mouth was almost too dry to speak.”

For years Muzondiwa said she had tried to assimilate to widely-shared standards of beauty and strip her hair of the curls that man had touched.

The year 13 student calls for educational institutions to place a greater emphasis on language, culture and history, arguing “the more students feel they belong in an educational context the better they perform.”

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