Growing up in Tacoma, Washington DC, basketball was the love of Bethany Montgomery’s life. It was how she expressed herself. She got a scholarship to Eastern Washington University to play and she was living her dream.
However when practicing one day, she blacked out. After many frequent visits to the doctors during her college years, they discovered she had a whole in her heart.
When she was just 21 she had surgery. Before the surgery, she couldn’t run for more than a minute without blacking out.
Now post-surgery, she is better but still faces some difficulty with symptoms including nausea.
“Play basketball after taking ten shots of tequila.”
Bethany was on the right tracks to go professional with her basketball, but her health had to come first. She described playing basketball with these symptoms was like “trying to play basketball after taking ten shots of tequila.” Impossible.
For Bethany, basketball was where she could create her own moves and shots as a way of expressing herself, and when she could no longer play, she went down a very dark hole into depression and started drinking and smoking, before realising this wasn’t her…
Then she turned to writing.
Writing had always been there in her life, she still has the journals from elementary school and the raps she wrote with her brothers. Bethany’s grandfather was a pastor, so she believes she got her performance skills from him. Growing up in the church also meant that she was no stranger to getting up and reading verses in front of an audience.
“It’s in my blood. speaking from passion and from the heart.”
It was in high school however when she discovered she had a talent for performing poems. In Sophomore year she participated in a national program called ‘Poetry out loud’ where she had to memorise someone else’s poem and perform it and she turned out to be very good at it.
Her hip hop originated from her surroundings as she explains it was everywhere around her especially in sport. The more she wrote the more her friends would request she write one for them.
In the locker rooms before basketball games she would rap with verses she’d written about each player to psych them up for the competition.
It was when she read Malcolm X’s biography that she got inspired to continue with poetry and focus on turning it into activism and speak more politically.
At first, her poetry was very personal to her and would only ever read it to her Mum.
When she left college she didn’t know what to do with her life and career until one day she decided to start up ‘Power 2 the poetry.‘
Power 2 the poetry is a performing arts organisation specialising in spoken word. It focuses on addressing crucial topics such as social, cultural, political and personal issues. While it helps the writer to address these issues, it inspires the audience to engage in action for change.
Bethany performed alongside Chuck Inspire and AJ the Wordsmith in a TEDxSpokane talk called Poetry as Activism. In this talk Bethany says “poetry is how I transform negative energy into positive creativity.” When she was facing terrible health problems and retiring from basketball, she was able to write her “pain and depression.”
“It honestly saved my life.”
To Bethany, poetry means power, it gives the writer power of expression, to shine a light on adversity and create social change. and she wants to encourage others to do so.