This poet’s pen is mightier than prejudice


Mitchells Plain

The place that makes outsiders go insane

Chelsea Goliath’s words have gone viral. The 21-year-old spoken word poet eloquently confronts narrow views of Mitchells Plain as nothing more than a place of violence. While challenging locals to celebrate their coloured identity and culture, something in her rhymes struck a chord. “I never knew that people would be able to relate to my story as much as they did,” Goliath says. The video of her poem, I am Mitchells Plain, has thousands of views on Facebook. Goliath’s work is a step towards unsettling deeply ingrained prejudices. “Poetry can change people’s perceptions,” she says. “Words have power.”

I don’t know why I’m ashamed to say I’m from this place

So I try to cover up my coloured ways

Writing under the pen name Firelily, Goliath’s verses are inspired by her personal experiences. She’s felt the atmosphere change when she says she’s from Mitchells Plain. In a split second, judgement is made of her character. She’s endured jokes about her accent. None of this has kept her silent. Goliath is using her way with words to show people she’s more than misguided opinions. On social media, where negativity and discord abound, the attention her poetry has received is significant. It’s a spark of hope that South Africans can find pride and joy in themselves and their differences.

Coming from Mitchells Plain should never ever be a shame

So you don’t have to change your accent to fit into the frame

Because you are rough art that cannot be framed

“I want people to stop being ashamed of where they’re from because it’s not your background that makes you,” Goliath says. We can’t change perceptions immediately. But we can start by shedding the stigma imposed by others. Through poetry, Goliath is encouraging South Africans to show off their character, soul, and heart. And like her poem that went viral, this too will spread.