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Presidential inauguration puts poetry and Cleveland youth program in the spotlight

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Posted at 5:51 PM, Jan 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-22 18:44:49-05

CLEVELAND — The power of poetry — this week, a young woman reminded the world how a tapestry of words can stir so many emotions within us.

Here in Northeast Ohio, there's a non-profit giving voices like Amanda Gorman's a platform.

RELATED: Read youth poet laureate Amanda Gorman's full inauguration poem 'The Hill We Climb'

And while it's not as large as a presidential inauguration ceremony, it is helping make our community a better land.

Inside a two-story house on Cleveland's East Side is a safe space to just be one's self.

Mary Barrett, Twelve Literary Arts youth programs coordinator, said the program is "giving people a voice who didn't think they had one in their communities."

Twelve Literary Arts helps boost the confidence in young artists of color through performance poetry, allowing them to "share their truth and share their story,” Barrett said.

Interest in the outreach happening at Twelve Literary Arts is expected to grow following Gorman's time in the spotlight.

The 22-year-old made history as the youngest poet to perform at a presidential inauguration.

"We're actually the same age and she's very poised. I think a lot of people just realized that in watching her perform that poetry can get you anywhere,” said Raja Belle Freeman with Twelve Literary Arts.

By definition: poetry is a literary work in which special intensity is given to the expression of feelings and ideas by using distinctive style and rhythm.

"It's a different way of just expressing my emotions. I like how I feel," said Tiyana Williams a Twelve Literary Arts intern.

High school students like Williams are weaving words together with the hopes of sparking real change in places like Cleveland's Hough neighborhood.

“They're more prepared to grow their communities, to work in their communities,” said Belle Freeman.

Belle Freeman, a teaching artist at Twelve Literary Arts, said poets in their program are using their art to express what changes they want to see in Cleveland.

"There has been a lot of interest in building a better community. And building on that change and becoming that change. Kind of what Amanda Gorman said - being the light,” said Belle Freeman.

With that light now shining so bright on poetry and the places it can take you, Twelve Literary Arts is eager to welcome a new wave of artistic talent.

“It's brought a new interest to poetry that will bring people to us, to bring us new, eager students that are willing to learn,” said Belle Freeman.

Twelve Literary Arts is hosting an online open mic night on Thursday, Feb. 4 at 5:30 p.m. The goal of the Open Mic Poetry Series is "to give space and equal energy to uplifting and highlighting our youth voices," a representative for the group said. More details on the event can be found on the Facebook Event page here, and those interested in taking part can register here.