Finding the Leader In Your Art:
A Step Toward Discovering Who You Want To Be
By Amorette Lormil, aka “Epiphany” – bluapple Poetry Programs Staff Assistant & Teaching Artist
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I was a junior in high school the first time I went to the Poetry & Leadership Conference (PLC) hosted by the Omari Hardwick bluapple Poetry Network of the Jason Taylor Foundation. With never having attended a conference prior, I really had no idea what I was walking into. I knew I was going to experience inspiring speeches and older professional poets performing. I didn’t know that my trek across the parking lot and up the stairs of the BB&T Center would take me to what essentially was the Mecca of my poetic journey.
While at the PLC, I attended multiple workshops. Two of them were the most memorable workshops in my entire career as a poet. One was taught by Calvin “MADEson” Early, where we practiced enunciation and projection in performance. Although those were things I learned as a vocal student, he made it relatable and refreshing. The other was with QUICK the Poet who spoke about his life journey which helped me reflect on my own story. He helped me realize that every aspect of me was a poem waiting to be narrated.
I could say the Poetry & Leadership Conference made me the poet I was. That, however, would be a lie. I didn’t learn how to be a poet at the PLC; I learned to be a better poet, writer, and performer. I learned to pull things out of myself that I didn’t know I had left to tap into. I assumed I had written it all and that I was the best I could be, but there was still so much voice left to find.
I didn’t know it then but the PLC helped me realize the difference between a retired NFL player and a Pro Football Hall of Famer. Some could argue technicalities but the reality is the difference between the two is merely that extra hour in the gym. It is the willingness to go to a camp despite already being in the league. It is seeing the difference between excellent and exceptional – minute but prevalent. I learned that I was an amazing writer but that I could go from the poet who received snaps to the poet who left people speechless; the spoken word artist that left NFL players, officers, parents, or even other nationally renowned poets… stunned.
Furthermore, the PLC taught me not just about poetry but about leadership — as stated in its name. I don’t only mean leadership in the terms of leading others, which is very powerful, but it taught me to take leadership of my life and my voice. In middle and high school, one tends to begin the journey of self discovery. That journey can oftentimes be scary and tumultuous. In this year’s PLC, and the many that will follow, my hope is that teens walk away feeling empowered in their person and knowing themselves just a tad bit more than they did walking in. With workshops like My Body is Poetry, The “I” in Poetry, and Write Through This… it’s obvious that the PLC is an event where one goes to grow more in love with themselves and their art.
On top of being so many other amazing things, the PLC creates the community that some teens don’t realize they so desperately want and need. Imagine waking up to go to an event where despite your differences, everyone in the space is exactly the same in a lot of ways. It’s the event that puts the rebels and the soft-spoken at the same table. It’s a conference that allows students to connect with hundreds of other students they may have only met at Gradbash or Starbucks and thought nothing of. At the PLC, I made friends in counties that I had only driven through. I shared my life and story with someone who looked nothing like me and I think that’s what the PLC is about – developing bonds and roots within a community. It’s about belonging.
Today as I write this I am a teaching artist in the same cohort as Calvin “MADEson” Early and other brilliant poets. I’m blessed with the opportunity to teach the same student I was 4 years ago. I now get paid for my art: I’ve performed nationally, released multiple pieces, and even got the chance to create a poem for a certain NFL Pro Football Hall of Famer with some other impeccable writers. However, at the end of it all, the most gratifying thing for me is to watch my journey come full circle and land me in a position to live as the person I didn’t realize I was destined to be until I walked through those doors at my first PLC.
If you are a poet or an educator who would like to start a poetry club on your campus, you can contact the Jason Taylor Foundation for access to the Omari Hardwick bluapple Poetry Network where a variety of programs and services are available, including a free poetry curriculum, professional development, teaching artist support, conferences, workshops and festivals, as well as the opportunity to connect with students and educators across South Florida who share your passion in this important and necessary art form. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, call us at 954.424.0799 or follow us @jtfoundation99 or @bluapplepoetry.