Councilor Lederman Introduces Legislation Establishing Youth Poet Laureate
At-Large Springfield City Councilor Jesse Lederman and Springfield Poet Laureate Magdalena Gomez are collaborating to establish a Youth Poet Laureate in the City of Springfield. The proposal comes in the form of an ordinance introduced by Councilor Lederman, which passed first step unanimously on Monday, April 5.
“The voices of our city’s youth are the voices of the future. The establishment of a Youth Poet Laureate will ensure that their voices are lifted up and celebrated through the arts for generations to come,” said Councilor Lederman.
“The induction of Springfield’s first Youth Poet Laureate, along with our third Poet Laureate, models the importance of amplifying cross generational voices, visions and collaborations for the common good. The universality and accessibility of poetry allows us to distill the intricacies of our lives, communities and societies to their essence. Poetry nurtures mindfulness, a foundation for the deepening of a more empathetic and awakened humanity,” said Magdalena Gomez, the current Poet Laureate of the City of Springfield.
Under the ordinance, the Youth Poet Laureate would be an honorary position appointed by the Mayor in consultation with the past Poet Laureates of the City of Springfield, and confirmed by the City Council for a two-year term.
The Youth Poet Laureate would be no more than 21 years of age at the time of their appointment, and their responsibilities would include the same duties as the Poet Laureate, which include, but are not limited to, providing public poetry readings, encouraging poetry appreciation within the City, and composing and publishing poems.
The position of the Springfield Poet Laureate was first created by ordinance in 2015, when Maria Luisa Arroyo was appointed as the first Springfield Poet Laureate. Magdalena Gomez became the second Springfield Poet Laureate in 2019.
Magdalena Gomez has been working with young artists for the majority of her career and is the co-founder of Teatro V!da, an intergenerational theatre group that works to build youth leadership through the arts with a special focus on the creation of youth generated multi-media performance works in collaboration with professional adult artists.Teatro V!da has evolved into Ign!te the M!c, which trains youth in all aspects of producing, hosting, performing and sustaining a monthly open mic venue by youth for youth that honors multiple literacies, languages and identities.
Two of Gomez’s collaborators who themselves took part in her mentorship and arts programming testified before the City Council in support of the ordinance.
“With regards to the arts and all that is going on in this world, the youth are those that have the greatest vulnerability within these moments, but also have the greatest power and wisdom, and if we help them build it and cultivate there can be beautiful futures awaiting us.” said Andrew Torres.
“Throughout history poetry has been a crucial means of passing on stories, history, and ancestral information. When we give youth the encouragement, resources, guidance, the platform, and the respect we are giving a garden the chance to flourish. A Springfield youth poet laureate will open doors for youth and for the community. You are not only saying the youth of today are the voices of tomorrow, you are showing them that they don’t have to wait for tomorrow to be heard,” said Ilhan Braxton.
Lederman and Gomez chose to introduce the ordinance in April since it is National Poetry Month.