Hakim Bellamy, the first Poet Laureate of Albuquerque, will give a talk through the Alumni Association at Hodgin Hall on Jan. 25 on his journey in the creative community since coming here in 2005.
Bellamy — a writer, actor and award-winning activist — said these kinds of pursuits were not originally part of his intended career path.
“When I graduated high school in New Jersey — I’m from South Jersey — I was a full-ride engineering scholarship recipient,” Bellamy said. “I was on this science path. I started working in the drug industry for about a year, but I said, ‘I don’t know if this is what I want to do with my life.’”
At the time, Bellamy and his son’s mother were applying to many different schools and were looking to move out West, he said.
“I applied to UC Riverside, UC Santa Cruz and UNM,” Bellamy said. “UNM said yes, and other schools said no, so the universe brought me here.”
Bellamy moved to Albuquerque on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in 2005, to study in the Communication & Journalism master’s program. He landed a work-study job through KUNM, covering radio news, he said.
“It really opened my eyes to a different world,” Bellamy said. “I was immersed in the community. I’d find myself at lots of events in the black community and lots of political events.”
Bellamy told others there that he wrote poetry, and many of them encouraged him to share his work at these events, he said.
“That was the beginning of me seeing this as a viable option,” Bellamy said. “I’d write these things, but I kept them to myself, and people wanted me to share them.”
Don McIver, a local slam poet and Central New Mexico Community College instructor, said he remembers receiving an email from Bellamy in 2005, expressing an interest in performing poetry.
“I remember telling him he should go to this event that I hosted,” McIver said. “Albuquerque just loved him right away. He struck me as this performance poet par excellence.”
Albuquerque was just starting its Poet Laureate program at the time, and McIver encouraged Bellamy to apply, he said. Despite Bellamy’s reservations, he applied, and the selection committee chose him.
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Since then, Bellamy said his career has gone in many directions, and numerous individuals helped him discover his path. From the guidance of Valerie Martinez and Joan Logghe, who were Poet Laureates of Santa Fe, to Idris Goodwin, who helped him with theater and acting, and Kenn Rodriguez, one of his slam poetry coaches, Bellamy has been blessed with many mentors, he said.
“UNM and Albuquerque have generally given me lots of opportunities to see if I’m good at something,” Bellamy said.
Susan MacEachen, the associate director of UNM Alumni Relations, said the Alumni Association wanted to do an event with Bellamy, and the idea was fresh in committee members’ minds because of his recent work.
“He did a special poem for Karen Abraham when they dedicated the (Alumni Center) courtyard to her this summer,” MacEachen said. “We thought this would be a nice way to start the year fresh with someone like Hakim.”
Anyone interested in learning more about this and other upcoming events through the Alumni Association can visit unmalumni.com.
Aaron Cowan is a volunteer reporter for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers volleyball and men's and women's golf but also writes on areas including culture and politics. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @AaronTCowan.