Do you know what it's like to write a poem about your home
and not be able to share with your neighbors?
Or what it's like to make an international award-winning film
about your people and then be outcast from your country?
Can you imagine singing a song that captures the heart of a nation
only to be barred from setting foot there again?
[The artists in my country are bleeding.]
The flowers in my country are torn from their roots
before they have a chance to blossom
Hear me out. Imagine, the very next time you come up here
to this stand and perform a poem before this mic,
you go home and sleep, like any other night
and the following day you get a letter in the mail,
signed by the highest authorities, informing you
that you must never again return to your birthplace
that you may never again see your parents in their own home.
I can't speak to that...I'm not there, yet.
But one of the saddest tones of the human voice I've ever heard
was a man singing about the separation from his homeland and mother
and what broke his heart was that he couldn't be there
to bury her when her time came.
So for all the artists out there, all the boys, girls, men and women
with fire in their lips, hands and feet
who are questioning whether or not to continue
keep perfecting your craft.
Don't take it from me, take it from the exile.
This is our greatest liberty, the expression of our humanity.
So the next time you come up here, keep that torch burning baby.
Keep it burning for the rest of us,
keep it burning for those who are kept in darkness.
And I would humbly ask that you not only keep the torch burning
but that you feed it until it burns so bright
that it illuminates even the darkest corners of human imagination