The word “queen” has been thrown around quite a bit as of late — for some, deserving, and for others, well, questionable. But the title is more than fitting for the late Tottiana “S’sence” Adams.
The spoken word artist and playwright passed away August 17, 2018, leaving behind a royal court of fans, followers and loved ones who were inspired by her reign over words — and life.
“She was just a natural light wherever she went,” said close friend and artist Nakara “SoloStar” White.
In the hours after her death, the Twin Cities community flooded social media timelines with disbelief and homage to the 28-year-old phenom. Since high school, Adams worked tirelessly to hone her craft and share her gift of words.
“Her slogan was ‘I speak for the unspoken,’” said Adams’ mother Sandra Lewis. “She was the voice for many who wouldn’t speak up for themselves.”
Adams won numerous poetry and spoken word competitions and performed at such events as Poetry Out Loud, Brave New Voices and Minneapolis’ own Teens Rock the Mic. Through her passion and dedication, she eventually earned the moniker of “Princess of Poetry.”
“She was extremely positive no matter what her circumstances,” said White. “She didn’t allow life to get her down even though she had many struggles.”
“She was so forgiving,” said Marie Chante Flowers, fellow poet, and friend. “She could say, ‘I know you’re toxic, but I’m going to help you clean up.’”
The Chicago native carried many other titles as well. She was mother to seven-year-old daughter S’sence, as well as daughter, sister, friend and mentor to many.
“She not only was my baby, she was my out-goer, my daredevil,” said Lewis. “My sons never left home, but she left. She wanted to be Tot, and I always had her in a box, and she didn’t want to be in a box. She wanted to be free. She didn’t want to be shut up in a box. She didn’t want limitations.”
Lewis said she is helping Adams’ young daughter cope and uplifting her mother’s memory “just by telling her by how beautiful she is.” Lewis shared that the young S’sence “has spurts, and says, ‘I’m missing my mommy,’” but she understands.
As to how Adams should be remembered, White said, “She really doesn’t need any help from me or anybody else for her legacy. Who she was was so big and so clear to everyone who encountered her.
“Her legacy is love and light,” continued White. “Her character was not questionable. Her love was not questionable. She made an impact in any space she graced.”
Adams’ stepfather Floyd Lewis, affectionately referred to as ‘Papa,’ borrowed a line from one of her popular poems: “I’m done chasing; [I’m] just living in my destiny.” He said, she “not only lived in her destiny, but her quotes will go on and touch many more to come.”
White recounted how Adams helped bring her out of her shell. “We recently were laughing and talking about this. I am an introvert. I’m not one to walk into a room and greet everyone and make friends, but that was a way she rubbed off on me that I can see every day.
“I don’t close off myself to people the way that I used to,” said White. “I’m a lot more friendly because of her.”
Celebratory services were hosted throughout the weekend, culminating in a funeral on Monday, August 27 at Shiloh Temple International Ministries. As family and friends shared memories, they fondly promoted her title to “Queen of Poetry.”
Lewis said she’s old-fashioned, but will respect her daughter’s wishes and spread her ashes on her next cruise. “S’sence said she did not want to be buried; she wanted to be cremated.
“In memories and spirit, she will always be with me.”
The family is accepting donations on behalf of Adams’ daughter to Top Line Credit union c/o S’sence Adams.
Stephenetta Harmon is a Black beauty editor, curator, and digital media and communications expert who builds platforms to celebrate the power, impact, and business of Black beauty. She is the former EIC for Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder (2018-19) and current host of MSR Forefront, a digital roundtable series. She is the founder of Sadiaa Black Beauty Guide, the premier directory dedicated to Black-owned hair and beauty businesses. Find her at stephenetta.com.