We recently interviewed very talented Steven ‘Khalid’ Hanzlik Zilberg (also known as KhalidThePoet). Khalid has recently released his 16th poetry collection.
Pro Media Mag: Our readers would like to know about start of your professional career.
Khalid: In regards to my professional career, it all started in South Africa (2010-2011). I participated in a study abroad program sponsored by Saint Cloud State University. While studying in South Africa, I volunteered at a Rehabilitation Facility. Most of my time was spent eating with residents, talking, and sometimes walking to the grocery store. After studying for 6 months, I would backpack from South Africa to Ethiopia. During this time, I converted to Islam. When I returned to the United States, I decided to continue traveling. One way I accomplished this was by teaching English as an ESL Instructor. My professional career would take me to Sana’a (Yemen), Jakarta (Indonesia), and Surat Thani (Thailand) just to name a few places. I would graduate with a Bachelors of Elective Studies from Saint Cloud State University. Currently, I am finishing up my Masters (Sociology) from the same university.
Pro Media Mag: It seems you are so passionate about traveling as you traveled to 25+ countries?
Khalid: Yes, I am very passionate about traveling. In my opinion, traveling is the only way to learn about other cultures, definition of humanity, and what it means to love unconditionally. While traveling I witnessed both beauty and travesty. For example in Sana’a (Yemen), I watched a drone hit a wedding caravan and kill everyone. This particular drone was an American drone. Also, I witnessed Al Shabaab in Somalia murder, innocent children, for refusing to join their ranks. These experiences shaped my world view. Now, I see myself as a revolutionary whose sole mission is to spread unconditional love by way of actions and words.
Pro Media Mag: Who or what inspired you to start writing poetry?
Khalid: My childhood inspired me the most. My biological mother suffered from schizophrenia as well as battled a drug addiction. In regards to my biological father, he was an alcoholic as well as a wife-beater. Both of them died from drug overdoses when I was young. Afterwards I was placed in the foster care system. Just recently, I came to the realization writing poetry is one of the most powerful weapons we have in our fight against hate. This past semester, I was sexually assaulted and as a man it was embarrassing.
Pro Media Mag: Tell us about your recent poetry book, 16th book actually?
Khalid: My most recent poetry collection is called ‘The Rise and Fall of a Revolutionary’. It was meant to be a biography of sorts in case something happens. Whether by accident or on purpose. We never if today will be our last day. So I wanted to be prepared. The central theme of this poetry collection is social justice and how we can unite, but before that happens certain individuals who have committed wrongs in the past must atone for what they did.
Pro Media Mag: What kind of response your poetry has received?
Khalid: To be honest, the overall response has been great. Those who read my poetry have enjoyed my work because I put my heart and soul into everything I write.
Pro Media Mag: Do you need some certain kind of environment to write poetry?
Khalid: I would have answered this question differently a year ago. During that time, the only way I could write poetry was if I was either drunk or as high as a kite. Now, I am using nicotine patches and have quit drinking. Even though I am not able to write as much in terms of quantity, the quality hasn’t decreased. It just takes me longer to get my thoughts down on paper.
Pro Media Mag: How much affect your personal life and incidents in your life have on your poetry?
Khalid: They have had an enormous impact. Not one day goes by in which I don’t reflect on my past choices, mistakes, and childhood. Those experiences are what shape us whether for good or bad.
Pro Media Mag: Have you set some goals to achieve?
Khalid: My goal is to be known by name as well as by my work. By doing so I can save up enough money to build a school(s) in a number of countries I visited in the past. Also I would like to impact the music industry and help pivot it towards the time when music was reflective of society and references social justice issues (Tupac, Public Enemy, and N.W.A).
Pro Media Mag: Anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Khalid: If I could leave the readers with one little bit of wisdom it would be that everyone no matter the color of their skin, sexual orientation, or nationality deserves unconditional love. It doesn’t matter if you disagree religiously or politically. Humanity needs love because right now hate is winning!