Poetry has always been my outlet, for as long as I can remember. I was a very energetic and talkative child, but when it came to topics that required my full attention. I was unable to contribute. I wasn’t illiterate; I just couldn’t articulate what I was feeling to anyone verbally. When I found poetry I found my voice, and I haven’t looked back since. To some it may just seem pointless. People said I should just express how I feel without the metaphors and line breaks. But poetry is an art form to me, like music is to a musician.
When I became the Seattle Youth Poet Laureate in 2016 I was finally given the platform that I had been craving for years. My story and art were put in a positive light to call out things that were hard to hear, but needed to be addressed. I spoke on the abuse I faced in foster care, and as a homeless youth. About mental health, racism, sexism, self-harm, suicide and the struggles of being myself in a world that often seemed to work directly against me, as a queer African American woman.
The opportunity to speak with fellow poets, and authors opened many doors for me. It also helped me realize that there needed to be more funding and support around programs like the Seattle Youth Poet Laureate. Youth and young adults need to have the opportunity to tell their stories in a way that works best for them. When I was able to share my work, I received real feedback and support from people all over Seattle and beyond. I was even published in a book based in New Zealand. I was finally being heard, and I was making a difference.
I know I am not the only one capable of doing this, but there is not nearly enough funding or support for our literary community as there should be. According to Seattle Public Schools, our public schools could face a $74 million budget cut for the 2017-18 session. History shows that schools often make up for budget shortfalls by cutting art programs but you can help youth and young adults find a platform for their creative work. Subscribing to the Mockingbird Times is one way, but you can also find out if there is an open mic to attend, or a poetry slam in your area. Show up and support your local poets by getting involved or attending an event with Pongo Publishing Teen Writing Project, Seattle Arts and Lectures, or Youth Speaks!