I still have my whole life ahead of me and I’m not giving up now.
You can’t silence my voice.
And when you come for one of us
We rise up, you give us no choice.
— from “Do you ever wonder?” by Cydney Brown, 2020-2021 Philadelphia Youth Poet Laureate
The Free Library of Philadelphia is thrilled to announce that Cydney Brown has been named the 2020-2021 Philadelphia Youth Poet Laureate. A committee of poets, educators, and arts-organization professionals selected Cydney from a competitive pool of applicants for the year-long role.
Cydney is a junior at Abington Friends School. She grew to love poetry by reading Maya Angelou and Robert Frost, entering (and winning!) her first slam competition when she was in fifth grade. More recently, she won first place at the Hip Hop poetry workshop earlier this year. During her laureate year, Cydney will be an ambassador for poetry around the city through readings and workshops—virtually for now, and hopefully in-person in 2021.
Each Youth Poet Laureate receives an educational scholarship and has the opportunity to be mentored by the city’s Poet Laureate. Cydney will work closely with Philadelphia Poet Laureate Trapeta B. Mayson, who writes that "Cydney will be a great poetry ambassador for our city—not only is she a talented poet, she is also committed to community service."
Community service is central to the role of Youth Poet Laureate, and Cydney has already shown her commitment to civic engagement. She runs a mentoring program called Project G.O.O.D. (Girls Overcome Obstacles Daily) that pairs middle and high school girls for mentoring focused on building self-esteem. Cydney is also active in the Girl Scouts and teaches tennis to younger students with Legacy Youth Tennis and Education. Every year the Youth Poet Laureate develops a community project with the support of the city’s Poet Laureate and the Free Library, and we can look forward to Cydney’s series of virtual readings and youth-led conversations in the year ahead.
Cydney wrote that when she received the call that she had been named Youth Poet Laureate, she "jumped for joy and danced around the house." She went on to note that "I am inspired and supported by my mother, Angelita Brown and my two older sisters, Kayla and Briana Brown because they are a huge part of who I am as a writer and activist. They taught me how to be a strong Black independent woman."
The Poet Laureate Selection Committee also named Londyn Edwards, a junior at Science Leadership Academy, as a finalist for the Youth Poet Laureate. Every year the selection process reveals the immense talent of Philadelphia’s young poets, resulting in the challenging choice of picking one laureate. Free Library congratulates everyone who applied this year for their dedication to writing and to Philadelphia!
The Free Library has managed the Philadelphia Poet Laureate program since 2017. Both the Poet Laureate and Youth Poet Laureate are civic positions that recognize exceptional poets who also demonstrate commitments to the power of poetry to engage and inspire people throughout Philadelphia’s neighborhoods.
The power to inspire is in part what makes Cydney’s poetry stand out. “I’m not giving up now,” she writes, inspiring us to keep going, to keep rising up, to lift up the voices of those who have been silenced. This is why Philadelphia has a Youth Poet Laureate program: to listen to those voices, emerging from our city’s classrooms and rec centers and libraries, who declare, with their whole lives ahead of them, that they are not giving up now. In the midst of this year, we need that determination. And we celebrate the poets who bring it.
You can catch Cydney—along with Trapeta B. Mayson and six former Philadelphia Youth Poets Laureate—during a live YouTube reading on Thursday, September 17 at 7:00 p.m., organized by the Kelly Writers House in partnership with #VoteThatJawn and the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society.
For more information about the Philadelphia Poet Laureate program, please visit www.freelibrary.org/poetlaureate.