where stories write the future
WordPlay was founded in 2012 to give young people a safe, inclusive and inspiring place to come together, uncover and share personal narratives, and determine how their creativity and voices contribute to a more
just and equitable community.
A Celebration of Young Voices
We first met Keshawn in his 8th grade Humanities class at Aiken High School. WordPlay was visiting that day to launch our new creative writing program integrated into every 7th and 8th grade classroom, where all junior high students get an immersive creative writing experience twice a month, designed to deepen academic learning through creative exploration. Keshawn enthusiastically told us that he was a writer and a singer, and just days later, he joined our after-school program at Aiken, WordUP, and our Scribes teen poetry troupe.
Now, nearly four years later, Keshawn is a Senior with an impressive list of academic and creative accomplishments under his belt. He plans on attending UC in the fall to study international relations, and absolutely plans to continue writing and performing. This is a piece he first wrote two years ago, and he has been working to evolve it since then. "Truth" is one of the 40+ pieces soon to be published in a WordPlay Press anthology representing student work created across many of our programs throughout the past two years.
The anthology will be printed by Clovernook Center's publishing house in print-Braille format, with one page of translucent plastic embossed with Braille for every page of print. We will also have QR codes for some of the pieces, linking to audio files of the students reading their work. We are incredibly grateful to Clovernook for their generosity in funding this collection featuring the power, resilience and artistry of our youth.
Our student writers are a vast resource of strengths; they are resilient and determined and inspired to use those strengths for positive change in their communities. We are honored to be a conduit for amplifying young voices like Keshawn's, Their stories will indeed write the future.
Keep an eye out for details on the anthology release date later this winter!
WordPlay and Clovernook Center team up to publish student writing in early 2021
by Keshawn Townsend
I am a Writer
Though my ink may have run dry
The trails I’ve been led through
Entangled by crippling thorns
Enlightened with heavenly light -
stitches on my heart
Relinquishing orbs of forgiveness
And unholy matrimony
I am my writer
Appreciating the human nature
Glorifying every tiny error, comma, cursive, and forgotten erasing
Formulating my life's anthology
Encased in a tomb - encrypted - secretive not for the everyday eye to see
Though my ink may have run dry
Poetic blisters yearn for release
Oozing hymns of unsaintly glory
I am the Writer
I’m a writer
I am my writer
Like a photographer
Capturing the memory
I make it visible like a mirroring lake
Reliving the terror
Relieving the nightmares
That scorches my brain
My poems are marked sad
When they unfold truths and
I am a writer
A broken writer
A black poet
A spiritual journalist
I am a gift
Keshawn with Aiken Science teacher, Mindy Muddiman, at a WordPlay performance showcase in 2018. Photo credits: Catherine Grace Photography
The power of story, connection and self-determination
Our communities today are divided by racial, cultural and economic factors. In a local survey, young people expressed a desire to be connected to their communities while acknowledging that this is often not the case. Systemic inequities permeate all sectors of our city, perpetuating segregation, generational marginalization and vast disparities in wellbeing from neighborhood to neighborhood. For young people—and our communities— to thrive, they need safe, inclusive spaces to come together and connect.
Barriers to Learning
We all face challenges in our daily lives when stressful environmental factors build up and go unaddressed. For school-age young people, any number of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can make it difficult to learn and succeed. A recent survey revealed nearly 85% of youth thought they would graduate from high school; yet 1 in 5 students surveyed did not graduate in 4 years.
Lack of Access to Opportunity
Without access, there can never be equity. More than two-thirds of the mis-termed "achievement gap" between lower- and higher-income students is due to lack of access to learning opportunities over the summer. To begin to level out this opportunity gap, young people need access not only in the summer, but year-round, to learning and enrichment opportunities that serve as a conduit for self-determination.
1. & 2. It Takes a Village: Making Cincinnati a Better Place for All Youth
3. Summer Can Set Kids on the Right—or Wrong—Course
THE WORDPLAY WAY
WordPlay is a grassroots-founded nonprofit organization committed to activating the strengths of children and teens in a safe, inclusive and inspiring place. We infuse arts-in-healing practices in our writing, arts-infused storytelling and performance programs where young people learn in community, uncover personal narratives and have their voices
be heard and valued.
Through multi-disciplinary workshops, integrated arts programs in schools and partnerships with community organizations, we provide a platform for self-determination through story, where young people claim power over who they are, what they are capable of, and how they want to show up in their communities.
"What you talking about?"
WordPlay Teaching Artists Brandon Isaac and Devin Burgess work with South Avondale 6th grader Keyatti Cordell to create a one-of-a-kind music video! Enjoy!
Creating "What you talking about?"
WordPlay Teaching Artists Brandon Isaac sits down with Keyatti Cordell to discuss the creative process, influences and inspiration behind the writing of his first song, "What you talking about?"
MLK Day 2021
Each year since 2015, WordPlay has been invited by the MLK Coalition to have teen poets compose an original spoken word piece for their annual event. This year, three of our young poets had the honor of crafting poems, then recording videos of their performances for the virtual celebration. Our thanks to the MLK Coalition for their partnership, and to our brave young writers, Esmeralda Reynoso Tomas, Aracelia Hernandez Lopez and Ariana Dickenson.
HAS A STORY.
From the smallest kindergartener to the tallest teen, every student who walks through WordPlay's doors has a story to tell. We want them to know that their stories are worth telling. Our thanks to Michael Holder of Holder Creative for this snapshot of our work.
children & teens (ages 5 to 18) have been reached by WordPlay programs
volunteers have been trained
books have been
children & teens