Weeks after father's death, Brockton's youth poet laureate inducted at emotional ceremony
BROCKTON — Two weeks before her induction ceremony as Brockton's first-ever youth poet laureate, Ayanna Blake’s father died.
On Saturday, with her family and friends filling the basement of the East Side Brockton Library, Blake was inducted as the city’s first youth poet laureate.
“I feel so loved,” she said following the ceremony. “I feel like he was here.”
Blake recited two original poems — both of which she submitted to be considered for the position back in April — to a crowd of at least 40 residents, all of whom were visibly moved by Blake’s emotional and passionate speech.
Blake, along with other attendees, failed to fight back tears as she thanked her late father for his constant support.
“Thank you to my dad who supported me through poetry since the moment he heard me read, who cried and told me I was beautiful, who taught me that my purpose was to be strong,” she said.
Her poem “What Brockton Means to Me,” which helped her secure the position over runner-up Hannah Baptiste, shares her experience of moving to Brockton as a high schooler — the first time she was surrounded by peers that looked like her, from “gold chains” and “fresh kicks” to “durags.”
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In mid-May, four judges — Mark Walsh, Kate DiMarca, Sawsan Zahara and Tim Trask — selected Blake for the role. Since then, she has performed at Brockton’s first Juneteenth celebration, and recited her original poem “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” at the city’s Black History Month celebration.
Councilor-at-large Winthrop Farwell and state Sen. Michael Brady presented Blake, a rising senior at Brockton High School, with official declarations of the new position. Current Brockton Poet Laureate Phil Hasouris, who first published his work in 1998, proposed the idea of creating the poet laureate and youth poet laureate positions to the city council. He became the city’s first poet laureate in 2021.
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“I’m just so happy for Brockton. Now we have a voice for our youth,” Hasouris said.
The city held a contest to find the first youth poet laureate, and the six applicants each submitted two original poems — one having to be about the city of Brockton. Blake was announced as the winner at the selection ceremony in May.
“Brockton is a beautiful place, and there is so much here ... kids can do amazing things if you give them the space. And kids will be teenagers, who will become adults,” she said in her induction speech Saturday.
Blake, dressed in a long white dress with blotches of reds and yellows, said she didn’t know her whole family was attending her induction ceremony Saturday. It was an emotional morning for Blake, as she hugged each person in attendance following the ceremony.
Enterprise staff reporter Chris Butler can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter at @Chr1sButler. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Enterprise today.
This article originally appeared on The Enterprise: Brockton's first youth poet laureate Ayanna Blake inducted