Heroine of the Week

Emtithal “Emi” Mahmoud

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Emtithal “Emi” Mahmoud is a Sudanese-American poet and activist who won the Individual World Poetry Slam title in 2015. In 2018, she was appointed UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, and in that role, she visited refugee camps in Kenya, Greece, and Jordan, raising attention to the plight of refugees.

Mahmoud was born in Darfur, Sudan, and relocated to Yemen with her family when she was a baby. In 1998, she emigrated to the United States. She returned to Sudan when she was seven years old when her parents took part in a protest after the government stopped paying teachers. She and her pals huddled beneath the bed out of terror, and the incident taught her the need for knowledge. Mahmoud attended Julia R. Masterman High School in Philadelphia and received a Leonore Annenberg Scholarship, which pays for four years of education in the United States. She subsequently went to Yale University, where she studied anthropology and Molecular Biology before graduating in 2016.

As an undergraduate at Yale University, Mahmoud first discovered spoken word poetry. She joined the Yale Slam Team after joining oyé!, a spoken-word group linked with the Latino Cultural Center on campus. She also appeared as a poem reader in the 2013 short film “Haleema”.

Mama was Mahmoud’s award-winning poem in 2015.

This was a homage to Mahmoud’s mother, who could not attend the competition because she was in Sudan for the burial of Mahmoud’s grandmother, who died on the first day.

Mahmoud also dedicated a poem called Boy in the Sand to Alan Kurdi. – Sisters’ Entrance, a collection of poems, was released in 2018.

Mahmoud has also been an activist since high school, calling attention to the ongoing tragedy in Darfur. She was named to the BBC’s 100 Women list of “The Most Inspirational Women in the World” in 2015 and invited to a roundtable discussion with President Obama during his visit to the Islamic Society of Baltimore in 2016.

Mahmoud participated in the How-to Do-Good speaker tour in 2017 and 2018, reciting poetry and addressing her advocacy work in New York, Oslo, Stockholm, The Hague, Brussels, Paris, London, and York.

Mahmoud has also worked for the rights of people living with sickle cell disease in Nepal since 2014.

She was asked to read one of her poems before the United Nations General Assembly in New York in 2016.

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