One of the state’s leading voices in the slam poetry community, Albuquerque’s first Poet Laureate, an actor, artist and a tireless advocate for Albuquerque’s creative community, Hakim Bellamy has been a phenomenon in the Albuquerque arts and culture scene for years.
As his list of creative accolades continued to grow, there was one thing Bellamy still hadn’t accomplished. Something was stuck in the back of his mind, from year to year. He couldn’t shake it loose. It was the reason he first came to New Mexico from the East Coast in the mid 2000’s.
“It took me nine years to finish my master’s degree. It was two-year degree program at UNM, and I was only a full-time student for the first year. And that was during the first year that we won the National Poetry Slam in 2005. That’s when my identity as a poet was cemented, and things just started taking off.
“There are things about UNM that have always grounded me, even when 3 or 4 years ago, I would sheepishly drive by campus knowing that I hadn’t finished my thesis work. I was embarrassed that I came out here to get my masters, and of all of the things that I have accomplished and been able to do, I didn’t do what I came here to do. What my parents encouraged me to come here to do.”
His committee members in the Communication and Journalism Department, Prof. Ilia Rodriguez and Prof. Karma Chavez, stayed in touch with Bellamy through the years, encouraging him to continue to finish his degree, one class at a time.
“They told me ‘it’s important that you finish because of who you are in the community. It’s important to finish because you have a child. It’s important that you finish because that was a personal goal of yours. Because you’re a young student of color, and it’s important that young men of color finish their higher education degrees.’ And so that cultural drive was really important to me, and I’m thankful that UNM had a place for it, especially in my department.
“The thing that UNM really gave me was the opportunity to ‘always come home.’ They gave me the opportunity to leave the light on, leave the door open, follow me and know I’m out in the world doing things.”
Since graduating from UNM, Bellamy has continued to be an artistic and creative dynamo in Albuquerque, now adding the title ‘mentor to a new creative generation’ to his bona fides.
But even Bellamy had to take time to slow down earlier this year when he met with His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, at an event in Madison, Wis., Bellamy and the Creative Action Team attending the event had an opportunity to create a performance for the Dalai Lama with 100 physicians who were also there. Earlier in the day, the physicians were sitting in lectures and learning about mindfulness, but later on, they were encouraged to rediscover their artistic side.
“They were doing body percussion, and they were singing and doing things that some of them may not have done since eighth-grade. They were getting in touch with their artistic side. And the resulting artistic product from that session, we put it on stage and gave it as a gift to the Dalai Lama. He was really appreciative and gave us a blessing.
“It was a once in a lifetime experience.”