Uniquely Detroit: The Citywide Poets

Different kids have different talents.

Kids who struggle with subjects like math and science could absolutely excel in the arts. Some of the most talented musicians, artists or writers can be in a situation where they go unrecognized for their artistic strengths because their test scores lag behind others'.

But Citywide Poets is a program for Detroit kids that gives them an opportunity to flex their creative muscles. 

"Besides finding yourself, it is a great coping mechanism and it allows you to see the world around you differently," said Hajjar Babban.

Citywide Poets is part of the InsideOut literary arts program and is an after school poetry troupe for Detroit teens. They offer mentorship from adult poets and writers who possess strong publication and performance credentials.

Will Langford is the high school coordinator for InsideOut and Citywide Poets.

He also graduated from the program.

"We spend time teaching our poets about stage presence, about volume, about rate," Langford said.

A big supporter of the program is Detroit rapper Danny Brown. You've probably at least heard him on his verse in "Detroit vs Everybody."

Brown has stepped up for Citywide Poets with support in securing funding from the Knight Foundation -- and donated proceeds from his recent Bruiser Brigade Thanksgiving concert at the Majestic Theater.

I was there during one of his recent stops to check in on the program at the main branch of the Detroit Public Library.

Brown and the students listened to some of his songs, discussed the meaning behind them and talked about the differences and similarities between rap and poetry. 

The students wrote about their neighborhood and performed their poetry in front of the group.  

"People don't really listen to me. I'm kind of like a lost voice. We live in a society that doesn't value women's voices, especially women of color, so writing helps me amplify my own voice and kind of figure out what I need in the world," Babban said.

Langford said he's proud to help the students find confidence in themselves and their voices.

"It gives them confidence to speak about the unique experiences that they have as people in Detroit. We're telling them that what you have to say matters, and without your voices, our city is missing something," Langford said.

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