2018 State of the Word Program


Alexis Kershaw
Cassidy Martin

Event Sponsors

Humanities Tennessee
Metro Arts: Nashville Office of Arts + Culture
Tennessee Arts Commission
National Endowment for the Arts
Martha Rivers Ingram Commons
Urban Word
Vanderbilt Blair School of Music


(Listed Alphabetically)

Alexis, Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet
AAlijah, Oakland High School
Bella, Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet
Brianna, Overton High School,
Carmen, Martin Luther King Academic Magnet
Cassidy, Trevecca University
Chloe, Franklin County High School
Clay, Station Camp High School
Daniel, LEAD Academy
Ellie, Harpeth Hall
Evelyn, Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet
Gray, Belmont University
Iman, Martin Luther King Academic Magnet
Katie, Nashville State Community College
Khaya, Middle Tennessee State University
Lem, Mary Baldwin University
Maggie, LEAD Academy
McKella, Big Picture High School
Michael, Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet & Hampton University
Nina, Middle Tennessee State University
Nubia, University of Memphis
Sydney, Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet
Trish, Overton High School


Benjamin Smith


DJ VU Reggaerica

Nashville Youth Poet Laureate Program

The Nashville Youth Poet Laureate program aims to identify young writers who are committed to civic and community engagement, diversity and tolerance, and youth voice across Nashville. Over the last few months young poets, emcees, writers, and leaders from across Nashville have been submitting their applications to become Nashville’s next Youth Poet Laureate. After their applications were reviewed, 12 youth performed in a semifinal round. Finalist selection took into consideration applicants’ writing and performance skills, commitment to service, and ability to communicate their beliefs effectively. The winner will have the opportunity to share their powerful voice, leadership, and love of Nashville at numerous events across the city. This program aims to identify young writers and leaders who are committed to civic and community engagement, diversity and tolerance, and youth voice across Nashville.


Mumina Ali – KIPP Nashville Collegiate High School, 12th Grade
“It is an honor to be considered a Nashville Youth Poet Laureate Finalist. In my 17 years of existence, I have lived in 2 countries and have traveled to at least 36 states. That being said, Nashville has been one of the most diverse areas I’ve had the honor to live in. Nashville Youth Poet Laureate is essential to Nashville because it allows students and individuals from all over to come to a safe environment and amplify their voice without the fear of being suppressed.”

Clayton Oglesby – Nashville School of the Arts, 12th Grade
“It feels great to be a finalist for Youth Poet Laureate because I’ve worked so hard as a writer and it’s great to see it pay off. To be selected as the 2019 Nashville Youth Poet Laureate would be exhilarating because as a poet I could have my work reach a broader audience while also getting my voice heard as a person. The Youth Poet Laureate program is important to Nashville as it gives young writers like me a chance to voice our thoughts and opinions through our writing.”

Patricyonna Rodgers – John Overton High School, 12th Grade
“I am elated to be named a finalist because it was very symbolic in terms of me growing as a person and a poet! I have been writing poetry, songs, and stories since I was a little girl but I never really felt I had a voice until I decided to speak up and start doing poetry slams and other activities. Being selected as the 2019 Nashville Youth Poet Laureate would give me more opportunities to help conquer my goal of effecting change. The Nashville Youth Poet Laureate Program gives the youth the voice that they need and yearn for. The program encourages youth to not give up hope for a better world for themselves and future generations to come.”


Tonight a panel of judges will honor one youth with the title of the fourth Nashville Youth Poet Laureate.
Anne Havard, Office of Mayor David Briley
Chet Weise, Third Man Books
Simba Woodard, LEAD Academy
M. Simone Boyd, My Family Fantastic


The Nashville Youth Poet Laureate is a joint program of the Office of the Mayor, Metro Nashville Arts Commission, Nashville Public Library, Nashville Public Library Foundation, Metro Nashville Public Schools, Urban Word, and Southern Word. Supporters of the Nashville Youth Poet Laureate program recognize that youth voice and community engagement are vital for empowering young people to effect positive changes in their communities and beyond.

Past Laureates

2018 Youth Poet Laureate
Haviland Whiting, Harpeth Hall

2017 Youth Poet Laureate
Gray Bulla, Nashville School of the Arts & Belmont University

2016 Youth Poet Laureate & 2018 Poetry Ambassador for the Southeast
Cassidy Martin, Nashville Big Picture High School & Trevecca University

2015 Youth Poet Laureate & 2017 Poetry Ambassador for the Southeast
Lagnajita Mukhopadhyay, Hume Fogg Academic Magnet & Belmont University

Support Southern Word

The performances you have seen tonight are a part of the journey that each of these young people have traveled on with Southern Word. If you were moved, please consider making a donation to Southern Word. We are only able to have mentors in schools and local youth organizations because of the financial support of organizations and individuals that believe that every young person has the untapped potential to be strong communicators and leaders in our community.

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