The year 2020 will go down in history as a time when America struggled. From months spent in isolation due to pandemic stay-at-home orders, to a global movement confronting issues of race and systemic racism in America, the emotional toll has been severe and we all have searched for ways to cope. One junior student, Cydney Brown, knew her summer would be far from normal, but she was determined to rise against the challenges it presented. Cydney shared, “I really wanted something out of [this summer]. I said to myself, ‘I’m not going to as many places as I would like to, so why don’t I focus on my poetry?’ Now, I have a poetry Instagram account that I’m on all the time and it is connecting me with other writers and I really enjoy that.”
Over the summer, Cydney explored many opportunities to get her poetry out there and to grow as a writer. One of those opportunities was the chance to become the city of Philadelphia’s Youth Poet Laureate. She submitted her application, essays and pieces of poetry to The Free Library, which manages the program. Mid-summer, Cydney found out she was a finalist and said over Zoom that she was jumping around her house in excitement. For her finalist interview, she met with the current Philadelphia poet laureate, Trapeta Mayson, and former 2016 poet laureate Yolanda Wisher. On Friday, September 4, Cydney learned that she had been named the 2020-2021 Philadelphia Youth Poet and she credits the support of her mother and two older sisters, who are also writers, as what constantly fuels her persistence and activism.
Every year the Youth Poet Laureate develops a community project. Cydney is looking forward to holding a series of virtual readings and youth-led conversations in the year ahead, and expressed, “Poetry is such a big part of who I am and [it] helped me express my feelings, especially during this time…So if I could create a virtual space where people could come, learn how to write poetry and then be able to share it, that would just be the best.”
Civic engagement and working with children are not unknowns to Cydney, who runs a youth mentoring program called Project G.O.O.D. (Girls Overcome Obstacles Daily), is active in the Girl Scouts and teaches younger kids tennis. You can learn even more about Cydney and her many gifts here.