Spoken Word Poet: Hebrew Mamita

Spoken Word Poet, Vanessa Hidary, A.K.A Hebrew Mamita

Before I introduce this spoken word poet to Inner Vibrations readers, you MUST SEE her video clip on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam first, which I gladly posted below. Then you’ll understand why my eyes swelled up with tears from an overwhelming feeling of love and compassion that compelled me to feature Vanessa Hidary A.K.A. Hebrew Mamita in this magazine. Her work, beliefs and lifestyle reflect an enlightened woman who is determined to break cultural stereo types, to bring people from all walks of life together, and to reveal the true colors of human beings beyond their ethnic race by celebrating their character.

1. How did you come up with the stage name, Hebrew Mamita, and why did you choose to market yourself as a Jewish Spoken Word Poet as oppose to anything else?

The name “HEBREW MAMITA”, came from a desire to reflect my childhood, my neighborhood. I grew up on the Upper west Side of Manhattan, which has historically been a very diverse neighborhood. My elementary school (PS 166) was a medley of Jews, Puerto Ricans, African- Americans, Dominicans, Irish, Asian, etc. I was the Jewish girl who spent every Christmas Eve with her best friend’s Puerto Rican family, dancing and singing and feeling as if I was one of the family. When I became a solo Performer I wanted to pay homage to the gift I was given by growing up with such a beautifully diverse childhood, while simultaneously representing my pride in my own Jewish/ Middle Eastern Identity. I was able to experience the best New York City has to offer, and felt this was a experience I needed to relay to the world through my art. 

I actually never chose to market myself as a “Jewish Spoken Word Artist.” I really just always saw myself as an artist telling my story. If I became became representative of any one market, that unfolded as a result of my work. It was not planned. That being said, I will say, It is very important for me to express my voice as a proud Jewish Woman. Growing up there were times, I felt somewhat conflicted about my pride as a Jew. I did not have any Jewish women role models in the arts or pop culture that I truly related to. When I was able to find myself and be proud of my beautiful and powerful heritage, I wanted to voice this, and hopefully inspire someone else who might have gone through what I did. I also believe it is equally, if not more important, for my voice to be heard in other communities. I felt there was a void missing for the voice of the modern urban Jewish girl who grew up going to Hebrew school and  eating pollo guisado, and I wanted to fill it. My very first spoken word piece I wrote to reflect this went like this…:
 
Baruch Atah Adonai
Viva Puerto Rico!  Ha’olam
Hamotzee, Fight The Power! Me’n Haaretz.
Amen. 
 
I realize this way of expressing myself is not for everyone. Some people may feel I should “stay in my lane”.  Ask me, “Why would you call yourself The Hebrew Mamita, if you are not Latina?” I’m willing to take that risk, as I know there are other people who relate to my experience, and my intention is to bring people together. To tell my story as honestly as I can. To claim and represent my own background, and to appreciate and celebrate other one’s as well. Sometimes this comes with criticism. Sometimes this comes with great respect.  I’ve grown to try to embrace both. 

 

2. What went through your mind on the night you were featured on Def Poetry Jam?

I was on a few seasons and it took until my last performance for me to feel as though I was truly in my own skin. Yes, I was nervous. Super nervous. I don’t know if I was confident my pieces would inspire, I just went out and took the chance. 

3. Were you nervous or confident that your piece would inspire others? Lastly, what were some of the most memorable reactions you received from viewers afterwards?

What was so amazing about being on Def Poetry Jam, was the fact that so many people all over the world could see my work. As a live performer, it’s magical to have your voice travel without having to fly 35680754323567 miles. 🙂 I received many emails from people who related to my story. I was very moved.

4. Out of all your poetry pieces, what is your personal favorite one and which do you think is the most popular? And why?

Hmm, that’s a hard one. I go through love affairs with different pieces. Honestly I have this one piece I love that I rarely perform, because some people get too caught up in the “bad language”. It’s called- “THE STRAW THAT BROKE THE P***Y’S BACK”. I love the metaphors in it and when the audience is with it, it’s so much fun to perform. I’m not sensitive to cursing unless it’s just for the sake of cursing with no intention of good writing behind it. I’ve been told I curse gracefully, lol. so I hope that helps soften the blow. I also think it’s harder for a woman to get away with the same use of language as men. We get more criticism.

The spoken word poet graces this photo of the palm shaped Hamsa body painted across her back, revealing one of her favorite spiritual symbols which wards off the evil-eye. (Photography & Artwork by Joey T. Bobbitt)

EVIL_EYEHidary4. Describe one or two Jewish traditions that you currently practice and believe that people from all walks of life can relate to… (Example, prayers, rituals, holidays, etc)

My favorite Jewish holiday is one that recently passed; Passover. It celebrates the Jews exodus from slavery in Egypt. I find it the most inclusive holiday as the message it relays is; “Do not oppress the stranger, for we were once strangers in the land of Egypt.” I strive to stand by this in how I live my life.

5. Describe any upcoming projects that you’ll be in. (Example, a movie, theater production, etc.) What is your role and when will it launch?

I’m actually focusing on a few projects where I will be behind the scenes, rather than on stage. I’m creating a curriculum for youth highlighting Jewish diversity and discrimination.

6. Name a random small pet peeve you have!

men spitting on the street.

7. If you could change only ONE thing in this world, what would it be and why?

Religious extremism. It’s ideology creates so much hatred and division.

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