Urban Word is at an important crossroads. As the leadership of our country sides with the reprehensible institutions of social and structural inequity, our organization is even more indebted to the work that we have been doing for nearly twenty years. Twelve years ago, we spread our wings from our partner space, the Teachers & Writers Collaborative, and secured our first independent office and youth space in Chelsea. The history, the legacy of youth poets and change-makers, staff members and mentors, and the magic that was cultivated and celebrated there lives and thrives in the artistic, cultural and political fabric of our city.
When we first moved into our new offices, we only had two staff members, and myself and four young people literally broke down walls with sledge hammers to create a workshop space. Four years later, we moved again across the hall to a bigger office space, and since then, we have not only outgrown that space, but we have also increased our staff to include 8 incredible leaders, including the internal repositioning of Mahogany L. Browne as our first ever Artistic Director, grown our programs nationwide, and were even honored at the White House last month (look out for our Giving Tuesday appeal to hear about our meeting with First Lady, Michelle Obama).
Now, we are proud to not only announce the opening of a new space, but also a powerful partnership with New York University’s Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools, under the leadership of my mentor and long-time Urban Word supporter, Dr. David Kirkland (please see press release attached). Metaphorically, we are still breaking down walls with sledge hammers, but right now, our new teen space on 5 West 19th Street is safe and open for grieving, processing and building in the aftermath of this election. Our afterschool roster of workshops and programs is free and ongoing, and in one month our city will name the next NYC Youth Poet Laureate, a program that has caught fire across the U.S. as we prepare to name the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate this April at Gracie Mansion.
Now more than ever we need your support, allyship, and commitment to cultivating the next generation of young leaders. This is not only an exciting announcement about the growth of our organization, but an invitation to show up for our youth.
They have something to say, and they will.
Executive Director, Urban Word