Keeping Her Promise

By Andrew Connard

ATLANTA—Theresa Davis made the decision to take her critically ill father off life support 14 years ago and lives every day remembering the promise she made to him during their final conversation.

“The last conversation we had together was about reclaiming control over my life and being a writer again,” Davis said. “He was a Black Panther and a community organizer, so I made it my goal to work towards promoting and supporting my communities [and] honoring those who may not have their voice yet.”

Davis quickly embraced the world of poetry again and started to write. Little did she know that she would go on to be a well-known poetry champion, author, motivational speaker and winner of many awards in poetry performance.

Davis’s journey with writing and poetry began at a young age. Both of her parents were active poets and community activists.

“My parents performed poetry all the time and were activists,” Davis said. “Every once and a while I would be assigned a poem to learn.”

Davis’s journey to success has not always been an easy. Her most difficult performance was the 2011 Women of the World Poetry Slam. She had prepared a poem about her late father, and when she arrived at the competition in Ohio, she discovered that she was actually on the wait list and would not be performing.

“I felt so disappointed and angry at myself,” Davis said. “I traveled all that way and had a very emotional piece prepared only to find out that I was not going to be able to perform.”

A few hours later, Davis received a phone call and was informed that someone had dropped out of the competition. Davis performed the piece she had written for her father, along with other pieces, and placed first.

“There were 72 women competing from around the world and I ended with the piece for my dad,” Davis said. “I won the competition and it was huge for me as a daughter and a writer. It was crazy to hear people say that I was not in the competition, and then I won it.”

Since then, Davis has gone on to win several awards including the Atlanta Art Amok Slam Team Grand Champion in 2011 and the Georgia Voice “Best of Atlanta Poetry” that same year. She now serves as the McEver Chair for Poetry at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. A complete list of her accomplishments as well as her biography can be found on her website.

Davis published her work in 2013 in a book titled, “After This We Go Dark,” released by Sibling Rivalry Press. Another book, “Drowned: A Mermaid’s Manifesto,” was placed on the 2017 “Books All Georgians Should Read” list by the Georgia Center for the Book.

Davis’ fellow Art Amok Slam Team member and Atlanta-based actress Nikki Gray is proud and excited for Davis’ accomplishments.

“[Davis is] an amazing author,” Gray said. “That’s my teammate.”

Davis continues to be a prominent face in Atlanta poetry culture and fights to serve her communities.

“Poetry is significant not only to Atlanta culture but to culture period,” Davis said. “It is social commentary and you can uplift your community. Building connections is one of the powerful things that poetry does.”

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Theresa Davis watches performers at Java Monkey, where she was the host for poetry night on Sunday, July 23, in Decatur, Georgia. (Photo by Kaitlyn Lewis)
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