Daisha Calliet, at age 15, has a vision far beyond her years. Calliet’s artwork illustrated this at the community-centered celebration of street art’s transformative energy, Exhibit BE, which held its closing ceremony on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Among the commendable displays of art throughout Prospect 3: Exhibit BE, Calliet’s poem, “The END of Silence,” stood out as thought provoking, profound, and moving.
“I wrote that poem around the time of the indictment of Darren Wilson, the man who killed Michael Brown,” said Calliet. “I was on the way to Bible Study with my mom when I found out.”
“I wanted to take all of my frustration and make it into a positive,” she said. “I didn’t talk the whole way to church, and then when we got there, I just sat down and started writing this poem.”
The poem was different from past writings for Calliet.
“It usually takes me awhile to write a poem, and this one just came out all at once,” she said. “I am a very strong Christian, and I believe this came straight from God.”
On social media, Calliet boldly identifies as ‘Angela Davis meets Maya Angelou.’ The pastor at her church calls her ‘Little Maya.’
“These are the women I look up to,” she said. “Both of these women were social activists. When I write, most of my poetry has a purpose to empower, to raise controversy, to bring attention to something.”
While Calliet’s favorite poet is Langston Hughes, she notes that of the many hats worn by Maya Angelou, her work as a poet was amazing. When asked how she became introduced to Ms. Angelou, Daisha said her mother, Veronica Calliet, owns every single Maya Angelou book.
“Maya Angelou—she is a strong woman, and she is a black woman at the same time,” she said.
Regarding Angela Davis, Calliet expressed her love for the Black Panther Party, and every idea that it stood for.
“A lot of emphasis goes to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks, but there were so many other people behind the scenes that had so much to do with it,” she said.
Calliet commented on how interesting it was to see who the Black Panther Party was compared to what the media portrayed them to be.
“They did lunch programs, tutoring, afterschool activities, childcare—all of these things to help people out,” she said. “I fell upon Angela Davis, She was so passionate about society and women, and she was so socially aware. It is so rare to see young people be socially aware.”
Every February in honor of Black History Month, Calliet sends an email to everyone in her school—students and faculty—with a fact about black history, every night.
“This is my way of helping people be more aware,” she said. “I am in the diversity club at school, and my goal is to raise awareness and kind of follow in the footsteps of these amazing women.”
At 15, Calliet plans to create more impactful poetry similar to her piece on display at Exhibit BE.
“In April of last year, my cousin was shot and killed in black-on-black violence,” she said. “As African Americans, we have to put aside our differences, because we are never going to actually make a change if we don’t come together.”
Despite her age, her purpose of writing is to provide inspiration for the younger audiences above all.
“Being that I am 15, my main priority when I write is to empower the youth,” she said. “We are what’s next, and I want to inspire them to be the best that they can be—for my generation and for generations to come.”
While Calliet aims to empower youth, she is simultaneously doing so for adults who read her work.
“I was still painting my poem on the wall when a couple of college students came to check it out before they left the city,” she said. “There was one—a 20-something girl from Ferguson, MS, who had been protesting with Michael Brown’s family from the beginning.”
The student approached Daisha to tell her how much of a blessing the poem was, and how she could not wait to return to Ferguson and tell everyone about it.
“A few days later, my brother, who also lives in Missouri, sent me a screenshot of a Twitter post with a picture of my poem in it,” she said. “Now that picture is everywhere—on Tumblr it has 5,000 notes.”
When asked where she felt improvement was needed in the African American community’s fight to diminish stereotypes, Calliet thought back to the beginning.
“We have to retrain our brains—African Americans as a whole. We’re using those stereotypes as a checklist,” she said. “The only way that we as a people can get out of this rut that we’re in is to stop being complacent. We have to stop settling, and we have to stop letting things just happen.”