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Virginia’s First Ever Youth Poet Laureate Announced in Norfolk

NORFOLK, VA – Award-winning literary arts organization, Urban Word, partnered with Teens With a Purpose,

to celebrate the powerful, poetic voice of Virginia’s teens. Together, they launched the first ever Norfolk Youth Poet Laureate program, a joint program with Urban Word, supported by PEN Center USA and the Academy of American Poets and the Norfolk Public Library. This is an opportunity for local youth to lead through the creative power of their words. This program aims to identify young writers and leaders who are committed to civic and community engagement, poetry and performance, and leadership and education across Norfolk, this program is the first of its kind in Virginia.

From January – March, Teens with a Purpose accepted submissions from young poets, rappers, leaders and activists ages 14-19  from across Norfolk who were interested in representing Norfolk as the inaugural Norfolk Youth Poet Laureate. A group of esteemed judges, Barbara Hamm Lee, Rodney Jordan, Roger Chesley, Shonda Buchanan, Simba Castano, and LaJuan Hines-Rome, selected Raven Bland as the Norfolk Youth Poet Laureate on Friday, April 3rd at Old Dominion University Theater. Raven is a student at Old Dominion University studying History. Raven is a member of the National Honor Society, Mace and Crown ODU Newspaper and volunteers at several local organizations including a youth ministry, senior living facility and food bank. Along with winning the prestigious title of Norfolk Youth Poet Laureate, the winning poet has won a book deal from Penmanship Books to publish their first collection of poems, as well as a library tour. The Norfolk Youth Poet Laureate will have numerous opportunities and platforms to share their powerful voices, their leadership, and love of Norfolk at numerous events.  Khayla Walker and Mykael Marshall placed 2nd and 3rd place and will be ambassadors for the Norfolk Youth Poet Laureate program.


The Norfolk Youth Poet Laureate is endorsed by the City of Norfolk. In a letter address to all the attendees of the historical event, Mayor Fraim says “Congratulations to the young Norfolk citizens chosen to share your literary works. The Norfolk Youth Poet Laureate Program provides you the opportunity to learn more about our city and celebrate its rich history, culture and diversity. I wish you all the very best for a successful and rewarding experience.”

The announcement was made during the 2015 HRYP Slam Fest, which features youth poets from all over Hampton Roads. HRYP is part of the Arts Education & Enrichment program at Teens With a Purpose, which is used as part of the overall outreach strategy of education and entertaining at community events, local churches, shelters and doing street performances throughout the cities on Hampton Roads. Teens

With a Purpose is proud to be a part of several arts & humanities networks that reflect our values and mirrors our mission: Brave New Voices Consortium, Youth Speaks, Virginia Beach Arts & Humanities Commission, and Norfolk Commission for the Arts.  Simply put, Teens With a Purpose strives to help teens creatively cultivate the next generation of leaders! Aside from hosting this festival Teens With a Purpose facilitates weekly, year-round, teen gatherings and leadership trainings where youth are taught to create their own music, videos, theatrical presentations and educational workshops addressing issues such as teen distracted driving, bully prevention, safe dating and HIV/STI awareness and prevention.

See Raven at one of these upcoming events:

– May 14th, Suffolk Art Gallery, Poetry Prose and Pizza  6-8:30pm

– May 20th VCM Teen Center,  I Want To Live Poetry event, 6-8pm

-May 22nd Nauticus, HRYP Grand Slam, 6-9pm

– June 13th Kroc Center, Norfolk Police Department Event on Bullying & Gang Violence, 11:30am-4pm

-June 20th Slover Library, Summer Reading Program, 2-4pm

For appearances and media interviews, please email info@twpthemovement.org or call (757) 747-2679.

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