Dami Okhiria

Poem | Why by Dami Okhiria

In the first of our pieces marking the end of 2017’s Black History Month, Wales Arts Review is very excited to be the first to publish Dami Okhiria, a powerful new voice in Welsh poetry.


Dami, why do you always have to talk about being black?

Because at 12 years and 3 months

I learnt that being black was apparently an issue.

Because at 12 years and 6 months I got my first unwanted nickname

Because I am black.

Why do I always have to talk about race?

Because it affects me when I almost get the wrong thing injected into my body because a receptionist and a nurse cannot tell two black girls apart in the way that she can tell two 5’6 white boys with blonde hair and blue eyes… apart.

Why do I always have to talk about race?
Because when I braid my hair in secondary school I’m teased and get a sprinkling of sawdust in my mother’s beautiful handiwork. And when I do it at university… I’m asked if Izzy (who’s been to Botswana once)… was my inspiration.

Race –

Is me having to carry the responsibility of teaching the people around me how not to offend.

It’s me not using the N-word simply so my white friends remember it’s not a word for them. But them not getting that message anyway

It’s the countless times I’ve been told to go back to where I came from and I don’t think they meant St Mellons
It’s the empty bus seat, when there are no more standing spaces. A standing ovation to my black hue… I assume.


Is having the colour of my skin hurled at me like an insult and me not feeling brave enough to even interrupt

It’s me feeling uncomfortable every time I talk about race, but understanding that I have to anyway.

Why do I always have to talk about race…?

Well, why don’t you?




My background is science and I’m currently studying to be a medical doctor. I got into poetry quite recently, I especially enjoy spoken word because I feel like I’m able to experience the poem as the author intended it. Writing is quite a new venture for me, I am really enjoying the journey and I’m excited to see where it takes me

This poem is formed from experiences, notes I left myself after micro-aggressions – I never intended for them to become anything. When a colleague asked the question that formed the first line of the poem, I guess it just happened. It goes some way to answer a question I’ve not always felt articulate enough to tackle. Why is not a closed piece, it is likely to grow and evolve as I do, based on my experiences.

It is an open invitation to examine the growing list of reasons why this dialogue is necessary and perhaps to question why you are not a part of it already.