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Spartan Spotlight: Zipporah Gatling

As a senior business management major, student leader (Student Government Association Vice President to be exact), distinguished member of the Norfolk State University Theatre Company,  Zipporah Gatling is multifaceted to say the least. When she is not representing NSU, leading or entertaining her peers, Zipporah writes and performs spoken word. Recently, HCNSU caught up with the mogul in the making to learn a little more about her not so hidden talent. Here is what she had to say:


HCNSU: Can you define spoken word for anyone who is unaware of what the art is?

Zipporah: Spoken Word is a way for telling stories/life experiences and making them into art


HCNSU: When did you discover that you had a love for spoken word? 

Zipporah: I stumbled into Urban Word NYC shortly after graduating from high school in 2012 and stayed in the community for a year and some change. UDubb is a spoken word community in New York for teens and it was there that I started writing. I wrote things for class in high school, which were honestly trash, but I was able to learn how to make poetry my own there. I haven’t written much after leaving there though.  


HCNSU: Is spoken word one of many talents?

Zipporah: It definitely is. I have a tendency to focus on a talent and ignore the other ones. I’m trying to work on not being a Jack of all trades but a master of none.


HCNSU:  Have you gotten awarded for your work?

Zipporah: I was able to participate in several programs through Urban Word. One of them is a slam competition that is opened to all the teen poets in New York. I ended up being one of the top 21 poets making it to the final stage and performing my poetry at the Apollo theater. 


HCNSU: Which poets, if any, have inspired you? How?

Zipporah: I had a grave affinity for Langston Hughes when I was in high school. It wasn’t as much of him being an inspiration as his words and stories providing a relatable escape from what I was going though at the time that I was reading his works. His works also gave me a sense of nostalgia since I lived in Harlem. They helped paint the history that I had heard so much about growing up. I was also into Jazz pretty heavy as well. 

HCNSU: In your opinion, what does it take to be a poet?

Zipporah: It definitely takes honesty and self awareness. There are things that you can communicate through your writing that will reveal truths that you weren’t able to explain otherwise. You also need to know the limits of how much of yourself you can safely and willingly reveal. 


HCNSU: What is your best and worst performance memory ?

Zipporah: I think the clip that y’all have was my best. I was able to perform a poem for my grandmother on a stage that I later found out was where my mom performed a poem that my grandmother wrote. It was a full circle kind of thing. The energy was amazing. The community was present and behind me. Whether or not I won wasn’t really important, it was more about telling your truth. 

My worst performance memory I can’t really recall. I just hope that it’s not recorded somewhere. Lol 


HCNSU: What was it like performing an original piece for the first time ?

Zipporah: It was nerve wrecking. Simply because I though it was trash and people related. I think that those reactions were what let me know that I actually had something going for me.   


HCNSU: Do you remember the title of your first poem?

Zipporah: Lawd.... I don’t know but I’m pretty sure that I got a low grade on it in high school lol


HCNSU: What is the best advice you can give to someone aspiring to be a poet? 

Zipporah: Be honest in work and allow yourself to heal through your work and from your past. Poetry helps you heal but it doesn’t do the healing for you. That’s a job that you have to take up when you’re not on the stage. 


HCNSU: Where can we find your work?

Zipporah: Since I haven’t written in a really long time I don’t have a website or a chapbook. If you type in my name you’ll find the Apollo performance. I was thinking of putting together a small chapbook though. I’ll let y’all know when I do for sure.


To keep up with Zipporah, follow her on instagram @__z.i.p.__ , and follow us @hercampusatnsu to find out which Spartan we put the spotlight on next. 






A free spirit who was born and raised in California, Chere is currently a student at Norfolk State University. At school, you are likely to find her studying mass communications -- but she is a firm believer in the expansion of knowledge in all areas. A strong advocate for Black women, equality, and social justice, Chere hopes to use her writing to further answer her call to activism.
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