By Ruchi Naresh
Last Wednesday, one of the Ruth Ellis Center’s creative writing projects came full circle in the form of “Voices,” a published poetry anthology.
To celebrate, a crowd of 50 listened to the teens and young adults deliver their published poems. The authors participated in a six-month spoken word and creative writing program that culminated in the publication of the book, which features more than 60 poems.
“We try to support various methods of creative expression in having their voices heard,” said Laura Hughes, executive director of the Ruth Ellis Center. “We really see it as an asset-based approach to supporting them.”
AT&T sponsored the writing program along with Inside Out Detroit’s Citywide Poets, who mentored the youth in weekly sessions.
Inside Out is an organization dedicated to literacy arts programs and Citywide Poets is an after school project for high school and college age youth.
“The youth who came were interested in writing,” said Isaac Miller, Inside Out’s program coordinator. “There were youth who wrote poetry even outside of the workshop and were skilled even before they started working with us.”
Jesse FullenKamp, the program supervisor at Ruth Ellis, said the poems in the anthology focus on issues of identity, being a part of the LGBTQ community and living in Detroit.
Aaron Brown, 18, recited two of his poems last Wednesday. The first one, Junior, was inspired by his friend’s mother who was abused. For Brown, poetry is a way to express himself and calm down.
“I am actually sad (the program) is coming to an end,” Brown said. “I liked the workshop and the people really helped me be more comfortable with myself.”
This marks the first time AT&T has sponsored a program at the Ruth Ellis Center. Robert Jones, AT&T’s director of external affairs, learned about the center through Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh. Jones attended the poetry performance and said it was AT&T’s first step towards supporting the LGBT community.
“One of the things (the center) provides is a haven for young people, but they also work on educational initiatives,” Jones said, “and one of the things that AT&T is big on is education.”
The Ruth Ellis Center is one of three centers in the country that provides services specifically for homeless and at-risk LGBTQ youth. To learn more, go to http://www.ruthelliscenter.org.