Meet Toni Stuart. Toni is a South African poet, performer and spoken word educator. Her work is about listening for the forgotten, buried and untold stories of communities of colour, and finding ways for us to share them, as a way of bringing about healing.
Q & A with Toni
Question: What’s your goal/vision for this conference?
Answer: My vision is for #SAPOCTable conference to be a welcoming, and supportive space where POC in the food industry can share their love, history, stories, dreams, experiences of and for food and the broader industry as a whole. Also, I hope that it is a space where people can be reminded that POC are the majority, and there is power and strength in numbers and in people coming together, and that this power can lead to systemic change in the industry.
Question: Name one person in this broader industry whom you look up to or a person who you really admire and why.
Answer: I admire my friend chef Andre Hill head chef @ubrestaurant, because I’ve witnessed first-hand his hard work and sacrifice over 18 years, to get to where he is today. Also, Zayaan Khan (@byzayaankhan) is a huge inspiration to me, the way she works in food and agriculture, inspires me to think differently about my work as a poet, performer and teacher.
Question: Fill in the following: Transformation in this industry (name your specific field or cause) will happen when…
Answer: Transformation will happen when people of colour have the absolute economic power to bring about meaningful and sustainable change, and, when we have the power to control our own creative ideas, not just have them used and gentrified by those in power.
Question: What would you love people to know about you and your work?
Answer: My life’s purpose and work is about listening: listening in a way that enables us to heal, and see & realise our true power and potential. Poetry is simply the way in which I do this work. I’m currently working on two big projects: writing my first full-length poetry book and running a youth poetry programme called Athlone Young Poets at Belgravia High School, in Athlone. I’m looking for anyone who would like to sponsor, fund, invest in Athlone Young Poets to help it become an independently financed, sustainable programme that is not reliant on donor funding.