Suhailah Waheed wrote her first poem at 8 years old.
“I’ve loved writing from a very young age,” said Waheed, 24. “When I was in high school at The Durham Performance Learning Center I took a course called Poetic Justice, which taught me about spoken word culture and how to create rhythm in our language. Everything bloomed from there.”
Waheed, a 2014 Durham Tech alumna, has since written 197 poems, which she compiled in her first book of poetry called Tales from the Clothesline.
Waheed visited campus last month on a publicity tour to debut her book.
“It felt really good to come back to Durham Tech and share my book because I feel like this is where it started,” Waheed said. “This is where I felt confident enough to go out on my own and explore different opportunities and not be afraid.”
The book chronicles pivotal experiences in the lives of many women including family dynamics, race, love, and self-worth, much of which she developed while at Durham Tech.
“My time at Durham Tech showed me it was okay to be exactly who I was,” Waheed said. “Durham Tech gave me the tools to be an individual and taught me to say what I wanted, when I wanted it and how I wanted it. A huge part of the book is about being able to speak open about your experiences, acknowledge them and move forward. I learned that at Durham Tech.”
The title of the book also has deep meaning for Waheed.
“It comes from a strong sense of nostalgia I had with my grandmother back in the day,” she said. “The clothesline comes from the experience of talking with her when I was younger and her telling me about her experiences as a woman. In order for me to explain some of the things I’ve gone through, I have to pay homage to her. Although I was young, her life lessons stuck with me.”
Waheed says she is passionate about empowering women and encourages conversation.
“I wanted the book to be about the most important experiences in a woman’s life,” she said. “These are conversations I continuously have with friends and family. We talk about the good, the ugly and the in-between. I wanted to put those conversations into literature. We can acknowledge everything we’ve been through and push through it. That allowed me to get to the end of the book, which is where I am today. To have hope, inspire others, and encourage others.”
Waheed continued her education at North Carolina Central University where she earned a Bachelors in Spanish and Latin American Studies. Today, she works in the non-profit sector in Austin, Texas.
“Never turn down an opportunity when it’s knocking,” Waheed said of her advice to future students. “Give it a chance and see where it leads you. When it comes to taking classes, invest in yourself and give yourself time to indulge in whatever it is that you’re learning.”
“At Durham Tech, you have the opportunity to seize the day and create long lasting relationships,” Waheed said. “I think everyone here is truly invested in each other. If you have that, enjoy it and take care of it.”