Meet the city's first-ever youth poet laureate. Here's what Brockton means to her.
BROCKTON — Ayanna Blake stood at a wooden lectern facing the small crowd in the Driscoll Art Gallery, moments after finding out she'd just been selected to be Brockton's first ever Youth Poet Laureate.
"Yay!" she said, nearly in a squeal. "I'm so happy."
During an event held May 7 at the Brockton Public Library, Blake was announced as the winner, chosen between two finalists for the new role, which she will start following her inauguration in July.
"I'm so excited to keep going with poetry because it means so much to me," she said to the crowd. "My vision is to leave a legacy."
Blake, 16, a junior at Brockton High School, along with fellow finalist Hannah Baptiste, 17, a senior at Cardinal Spellman High School, read two original poems at Saturday's event, including one about Brockton.
Who's getting new stations?: What you need to know about the return of South Coast Rail
Blake read a poem titled "What Brockton Means To Me," which describes her experience moving to Brockton a few years ago.
"I moved to Brockton, and it's a safe space for me now," she said in an interview.
Four judges — Mark Walsh, Kate DiMarca, Sawsan Zahara and Tim Trask — made the decision following the finalists' performances on May 7. Walsh, DiMarca and Zahara, who are all professors of English at Massasoit Community College, selected the finalists among six students who applied for the role. Trask, a member of the Library Foundation, was added as a judge for the final selection.
"This was the most agonizing decision I've made in my life," said Walsh.
Blake's term will begin in July, and will last for a full year. Poet Laureate of Brockton Phil Hasouris said that Blake's first appearance as youth poet laureate will be at an event celebrating Juneteenth on June 19, at which Blake will perform an original poem.
"We're going to throw her right into the fire," Hasouris said.
Brockton native a TV star: First, this Brockton native landed major role on HBO. Now, he's starring in his own show.
Blake serves as president of Spark Brockton, a student-led organization that has held two toy drives in Brockton and worked to feed 25 families for Thanksgiving.
Two runners-up — Kylie Medrano and Del'or Ehade — also performed their original work at the event, which was held in the Driscoll Art Gallery in the Brockton Public Library.
"All of the voices we're going to hear today are the future of Brockton," said the event's host, Emily Levine.
City Councilor Winthrop Farwell and Mayor Robert Sullivan also attended the event, and Farwell presented Hasouris with an official copy of the City Council's ordinance that created the position of Youth Poet Laureate, which will be hung in the library.
"The arts are so important to Brockton," Farwell said. "You are a message we are sending into the future."
This article originally appeared on The Enterprise: Brockton names its first Youth Poet Laureate Ayanna Blake