Poetic Communication – In Conversation with Kandice Head

Kandice Head's eyes are visible above a book of her poetry that she is holding

By Elise McGlothian—


In honor of Black History Month, The Goddess Speaks is highlighting the work of Black communicators. We begin this series with poet Kandice Head – whose first book explores her relationship with her late mother, civil injustices, and defining Black womanhood. This conversation has been edited for clarity. 

Headshot by Susis Oloubo

Where did you get the inspiration to write your poetry book, “A Black Girl’s Symphony?”   


I’ve always been a writer; writing has been my through line throughout my entire life. That’s why I went to school for journalism and then strategic communication. Folks identified that for me at an early age. Teachers and parents said, “This girl is going somewhere with this, let’s try to put her in journalism.” 


I found myself in DC, very young, writing essays. I was also writing poetry and performing it. I noticed that a lot of my poetry and essays came down to a common theme: Black womanhood. So, I combined them all together into this book. 


Symphony” is a nod to my musical roots. My mom was a jazz singer. She had my brother and I learn several instruments, starting with the piano. When I think about Black womanhood and when I think about music, there’s such a natural connection there. We are a symphony. We are diverse, we are multifaceted, just like a symphony is.  


How does your book reflect the current circumstances we’re living through?  


The book had already been finalized before the pandemic hit, but it got delayed from the publisher because of it. During that period, I added a couple pieces about the back-to-back murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd. I have a poem that speaks to the very justified anger of the Black community. And it’s called, When We Cannot Breathe. 


Originally, I was very frustrated that the book had been delayed, but I am so glad that it did. My book was supposed to come out in March of 2020 – when everything happened. But I also lost my mom in April, and so I felt like God saying, “This isn’t complete, there are still things that we need to add to it.”  


The book originally started as a collection of pieces about Black womanhood, but now it has all these pieces about anger, grief, and my mother’s legacy and impact. I really got to heal through this book, and I wasn’t expecting that.  


Can you explain your creative processes? What has helped you refine your poetic ability?  


I’d definitely say lived experiences and wisdom. My poems are always rooted in revelation and a new revealed truth. But I think the other part of it is just being in constant practice. This is something that I love to do. And I fully believe in the idea that it takes 10,000 hours to be good at something. I only have good poetry because I’ve written a lot of bad poetry. And at the end of the day, I’m writing every single day. 


Before the pandemic hit, I was consistent about being in community with poets and writers every two weeks in DC, and I had a wonderful community that I was a part of called, Split This Rock. They’re a poetry collective rooted in social justice, and they’re amazing. I also continue to write and challenge myself; I write prompts in journals every day, and I take the time and space that one needs to be able to reflect. I think being a poet or any artist is about really carving out that time to be away from the world because the world can work against you in a lot of ways.  


Over the past two years, I’ve had to learn how to sit and pause and show up for myself and show up for what I need. I think my grief process has helped me do that. Because grief doesn’t care what you have on your todo lists, it doesn’t care about Zoom calls or your work schedule, it will come and it will hit hard. And it’s kind of like emotional nausea. Like if you don’t get it out, you’re going to be sick. It has humbled me, and it has made me pause. 


Do you think your book will help others with grief?  


I hope it does, but this book doesn’t touch extensively on grief.  I want my next project to be rooted in folks healing because I think since we’re in a new year, everybody’s saying, “new goals,” and “let’s go get it.” But at the same time, if you don’t sit down and deal with the pain that you’ve endured from the previous year, you’re not going to be as successful as you want to be moving forward. 

How has being a 
Black community communicator, a Black poetry writer, influenced your 9 to 5? 


It’s informed everything. 


Before I looked at these aspects as two separate things. My career is what I do. Poetry is who I am. And so, in my early 20s, I spent a lot of time being very frustrated because what I did 9 to 5 did not really align with who I was. And, I was told that that is normal.  


After a while of living in DC and working in corporate PR, I was so drained and exhausted. I felt like the work that I did didn’t matter. After a while, I had to quit. I didn’t know what was next for me, but God took care of me during that time. The best career decision I’ve ever made was to switch to the nonprofit sector. In 2018, I worked for the Forum for Youth Investment. It’s a nonprofit think tank based in the DC area. I got closer to the work I wanted to do. I was a communication specialist, and I got to use my full skill set.  


Now, I work for the Funders’ Collaborative on Youth Organizing, and so far, it’s been the best job I’ve ever had. We’re a funding intermediary, we sit in the middle of philanthropy and organizing. I think we do great work, and I get to show up fully for the things that I care about and still write.  


Is there any advice that you would like to share with Black communicators? 


Yeah, I’d say, fully show up for what you need in all areas of your life but especially in your career. I spent the early part of my career, responding and asking, “What do you all need from me? How can I help?” Now I look at jobs and also ask, “How is this position showing up for my strengths? How is it showing up for my interests? How’s it showing up for what I care about in the world?”  


My boss is always asking me, “How can we pull in your poetry into what we do?” I think that’s just a beautiful thing that I have to get used to, because that’s not what normally happens in the workplace. I’d say, as much as you need a job, these places need you too, and they need you in your full self. 


Who would you say this book is for?  


I didn’t write this with a particular age group in mind, but the folks who have already read it have said that it is a wonderful read for young Black women, who are just learning about themselves and their place in the world. Toni Morrison said, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” 


And so that’s what I did. I needed to hear these things. This is what I’ve gone through, and I need to share that in a written form. I think it will work well for young Black women who are trying to grapple with their identity. But also, it’s a great treat for Black women of all ages, for sure. 


You’ve got quite the testimony. Where can people find your book?  


They can order it at kandicewrites.com/books. They’ll find the link to order there. It will be in all of the Politics and Prose bookstores in Washington, DC this month.  


About Kandice:  

Photo Credit: Susis Oloubo

Kandice is a strategist, writer, and author who works full time in advocacy communications at the Funders’ Collaborative on Youth Organizing and part time as content writer for whatmatters.com. 


A Chicago native, Kandice earned her bachelor’s degree in Journalism, Strategic Communication at the University of Missouri. When she’s not working, she’s writing and performing spoken word poetry. She recently published her debut collection of poetry and prose, “A Black Girl’s Symphony.” 

About The Author

Elise McGlothian

Elise McGlothian


Elise thrives when creating a positive social impact through communications. She has a passion for equitably relaying information and moving people to support organizations tackling critical social challenges – especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about Elise.