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Linda Mah
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Young Poets Find ’Courage to Create’

WMU Sponsors Poetry Contest as part of MLK Day Activites

“When I have my children, I will wish their skin is caramel instead of dark chocolate, because apparently, my skin is bitter.” — Leasia Posey, Kalamazoo Central


Ten Kalamazoo Public Schools students were honored at the Courage to Create poetry event held at Western Michigan University’s Trimpe Multicultural Center in February.

The winning poets and their schools were:

Emily Bosak, Loy Norrix High School

Caila Chapman, Loy Norrix

Kamryn Kimbrough, Loy Norrix

Leasia Posey, Kalamazoo Central High School

Jayla Parker-Vincent, Hillside Middle School

Kaitlyn Miller, Hillside

Elleghia Fraanza, Hillside

Eddie Anderson IV, Hillside

Xavier Williams, Phoenix High School

Akasha Wormley, Milwood Magnet School


“Trees are tall, Oceans are blue. If others can drive, Asians can too.” — Tiann Johansen, Kalamazoo Central


Courage to Create was launched five years ago as part of Western Michigan University’s MLK Day celebrations. It was started by William Craft, director of information technology in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and Dr. Kathy Purnell, an attorney who teaches part-time at WMU.

“The idea was to inspire creativity,” Craft said. “We wanted to create a community where they could express their voices with the help of established poets.”

Poetry workshops were held for high school students who want to create poetry that addresses issues of social justice and equality, said poet Elizabeth Kerlikowske.

Since then, it has been expanded to include middle schools. And, this year for the first time, in addition to the MLK day workshops, Kalamazoo area poets worked with students during after-school sessions. Some of the poets included Kerlikowske, Buddy Hannah, Ed Genisys, and Jennifer Clark.

Working through Communities in Schools of Kalamazoo, the poets visited groups of students to introduce them to Courage to Create, worked with them on poetry exercises to help find a focus for their writing, and followed up with editing and to practice reading the poems aloud, Clark said.

The project is a collaboration between KPS, CIS, the WMU Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and Friends of Poetry.


“From those who have long stood to those who could stand no more, you are the key to connect, to stand, and to unite.” — Akasha Wormley, Milwood Magnet School


The event at Western Michigan University’s Trimpe Multicultural Center is a way for the students’ poems to “have a life outside” of the room where they’re written, Kerliowske said.

“The emphasis is on the writing as well as the performing,” she said. “A poem isn’t really done until it’s heard.” At the Courage to Create event, the Top 10 scoring poets received Kindles. Prizes are also given to the school with the highest level of participation, which this year was Hillside Middle School, and to Hillside teacher Heidi Ellis, who received the Inspirational Teacher Award.

Submissions are being accepted now for the 2020 competition and may be submitted online at .www.


“I run to nowhere. Drums of courage beat me on under neon lights. My path is my own. Seven more blue sunsets until I am free from fear.” — Caila Chapman, Loy Norrix



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