The 15 best student artists: Malcolm Kenyatta

Fifteen artists were chosen to share their stories in our special issue, created to showcase some of Temple’s most passionate and creative on-campus talent.

(Sabrina Jacott/TTN)

Year: Sophomore
Major: Theater

Malcolm Kenyatta doesn’t mind being awkwardly comfortable. In fact, this poet welcomes the feeling.

“Before I performed ‘Awkwardly Comfortable,’ I was originally against it,” the sophomore theater major said about performing his poem in the nude. “But I realized: this is my medium, my art, and it was exactly what the poem was about.

“It’s about giving your all to someone, completely naked and unrefined. Like poetry, it’s saying, ‘This is me.’”

As chairman and founder of Babel, Temple’s collective of poets, Kenyatta has made it his mission to bring life to an otherwise dormant art form in the Temple and Philadelphia community.

His emotional, thought-provoking signature piece, “Public Service Announcement,” has been known to hail standing ovations and finger snaps of approval in venues scattered across the city.

“People need people, whether they like it or not,” Kenyatta said, “and there are a lot of messed-up situations. ‘PSA’ is an allowance to myself and others to show weakness.”

Kenyatta said his writing process is unconventional. Rather than beginning with an idea and finishing it off with a title, Kenyatta does the opposite.

“My poems start with a title, and I work backward,” he said. “Sometimes, the piece isn’t directly in sync with the title, but some very cool ideas have developed from them.”

Kenyatta is an idea man. When he isn’t fronting Babel, he is an actor, singer and YouTube personality.

He started his YouTube show, A Moment with Malcolm, in November and has already collected more than 115 subscribers. In the show, Kenyatta entertainingly gives his take on current events, pop culture and whatever else the artist has on his mind.

For Kenyatta, art is a crucial factor in getting whatever weighs him off his chest.

“When you just want to scream or yell or roll,” Kenyatta said, “sometimes words just can’t express it. Sometimes you just cry because you have nothing left to say. Poetry is finding words for those things that never had words before.”

Maria Zankey can be reached at

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