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Andre'a Rhoads Named 2021-22 Philadelphia Youth Poet Laureate
PHILADELPHIA, July 1, 2021—The Free Library of Philadelphia is pleased to announce the 2021–22 Philadelphia Youth Poet Laureate: Andre’a Rhoads, a rising senior at Little Flower Catholic High School for Girls from North Philadelphia. She was selected from a competitive pool of applicants by the Poet Laureate Governing Committee, and will succeed Cydney Brown, who served as the 2020–21 Youth Poet Laureate.
“My parents Tracy and Andre Rhoads always taught me to express myself unapologetically, and to never let obstacles stand in my way. I come from a loving community and family. When my back is against the wall, I have a support system who will come to my rescue. My peers and family members give me hope that dreams are real, and that anything is possible. My faith in God also uplifts me,” Rhoads said.
Rhoads grew to love poetry at Gesu Elementary School. There, an advanced writing class taught her that we can learn about ourselves by reading the words of others. Encountering the work of Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, and the poets of the Harlem Renaissance sparked her passion for poetry.
“Andre’a’s voice is authentic and powerful. As the City’s next Youth Poet Laureate, there is no doubt that she will use her poetry to reach young people across Philadelphia. Young writers need creative opportunities to help them grow and shine. The Youth Poet Laureate position is essential in that it offers recognition while uplifting young voices,” said Trapeta B. Mayson, 2020-2021 Philadelphia Poet Laureate.
During her laureate year, Andre’a will be an ambassador for poetry around the city through readings and workshops. She will also design and implement a community-based project featuring a poetry slam festival and short video that inspires Philadelphians to address gun violence in our city. Andre’a has already demonstrated commitment to her community as a volunteer for Cradles to Crayons and a youth mentor for both her church and her middle school.
“Andre'a channels a unique and passionate perspective through her poetry. The Youth Poet Laureate program is sustained by emerging writers like her who want to use their voices to embody and enact change in our city,” said Yolanda Wisher, 2016-2017 Philadelphia Poet Laureate and governing committee co-chair.
The City of Philadelphia’s Poet Laureate program has been stewarded by the Free Library since the fall of 2017. The Poet Laureate is a civic position that recognizes an exceptional poet who also demonstrates a commitment to the power of poetry to engage and inspire people throughout Philadelphia’s neighborhoods. In addition to the Poet Laureate position, the program also supports a new Youth Poet Laureate each year—an honor that comes with an educational scholarship. The Poet Laureate mentors the Youth Poet Laureate, who represents the voice of Philadelphia’s young poets. Both poets engage with Philadelphia citizens through readings, events, and a special project of their choosing.
“Every year the Youth Poet Laureate selection process reveals the immense talent of Philadelphia’s young poets, and I do not envy the challenging choice they make in picking one laureate. The Free Library congratulates everyone who applied this year for their dedication to writing and to Philadelphia. We look forward to seeing what you will do next,” said Folasade A. Olanipekun-Lewis, Chair of the Free Library’s Board of Trustees.
The Poet Laureate Governing Committee is comprised of poets, educators, and arts-organization professionals. In addition to Wisher, the committee is co-chaired by Autumn McClintock, Strategy Coordinator at the Free Library. Other committee members include Beth Feldman Brandt, Executive Director of the Stockton Rush Bartol Foundation; Trapeta B. Mayson, 2020-2021 Philadelphia Poet Laureate; Al Filreis, Faculty Director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Kelly Writers House; Andrew Nurkin, Deputy Director for Enrichment and Civic Engagement at the Free Library; Kai Davis, poet, performer, teaching artist, poetry editor for Apiary magazine, and organizer/artistic director for The Pigeon Presents: The Philadelphia Poetry Slam; and Marissa Johnson-Valenzuela, writer and editor at Thread Makes Blanket Press.
Organizations interested in inviting Rhoads to read should contact email@example.com. For more information, visit freelibrary.org/poetlaureate.
Department of External Affairs, Free Library of Philadelphia, 1901 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103-1189
(215) 567-7710, FAX (215) 567-7850