Look and Listen #13: Emi Mahmoud, How to Translate a Joke from Button Poetry

“How to Translate a Joke” is a perceptive poem about how humor and comedy can be a vehicle for prejudice and a means of enforcing the status quo. The remarkable universality of the degradation of women in the 21st century is unjust and unfortunate, but we have the power to shift this paradigm by changing how and to what we are willing to listen.

Poet and activist Emtithal, or Emi, Mahmoud was born in 1993 in Darfur, Sudan. Due to violence, unstable government and institutionalized racism (apartheid), her family relocated to Yemen and then resettled in the United States in 1998 thanks to the Diversity Visa Program. Entering kindergarten in Philadelphia as a non-English speaker, she graduated from high school a recipient of the Leonore Annenberg Scholarship, which covers four years of college at any American University.  She decided to attend Yale, graduating with a double major in Anthropology and Molecular Biology. While attending Yale, she won the 2015 Individual World Poetry Slam Championship. Emi has been an United Nations Goodwill Ambassador since 2018 and is famous for walking from El Fasher, north of Darfur, to Khartoum, a journey of more than 800 miles, in order to inspire collaboration and awareness in her native land. This was a very risky and revolutionary act for a young unmarried woman to take–Emi has received death threats. She also co-founded Sickle Cell Nepal, an organization fighting Sickle Cell Anemia based in Kathmandu and Nepalgunj, Nepal. Bold, brilliant, articulate and beautiful, Emi is a leader in her community, a community which happens to include America, Sudan, and the world.

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