Chicago is home to many organizations that help young people to express themsleves, including Young Chicago Authors, After School Matters, Street-Level Youth Media, Free Write Jail Arts, and YOUmedia, a learning space housed in Chicago Public Library’s Harold Washington Library Center that gives teens access to countless books, innovative technology and mentorship with working artists.
Series producer Stanzi Vaubel traveled to YOUmedia to talk to young poets and their instructors, which led her into a conversation with teaching artist Jennifer Steele. While they were talking, Jennifer discovered that poetry is a kind of prophecy for her, a way to discover what she does not yet know about herself. Jennifer reminds us of the voice that can speak – and illuminate – a little of our own mystery. When we write, we come into contact with memories and feelings – and also the future selves that are still dreaming, and writing, us into existence.
YOUmedia was created as an innovative, 21st century teen learning space that works to connect young adults, books, media, mentors, and institutions throughout the city of Chicago in one dynamic space designed to inspire collaboration and creativity. Mentors from Digital Youth Network as well as Chicago Public Library librarians lead workshops to help teens build their skills and create digital artifacts – from songs to videos to photography to blogs.
Jennifer Steele is a teaching artist for various organizations around the city of Chicago including Hands On Stanzas, Camp of Dreams, and Young Chicago Authors. Her poems have appeared in Columbia Poetry Review, Caduceus, Warpland Journal, and Beltway Quarterly Online. She received her B.M. from Howard University and her M.F.A. from Columbia College Chicago.
In celebration of National Poetry Month, WBEZ presents The Gift – produced by Stanzi Vaubel and curated by Rachel Jamison Webster, author of September: Poems. This project is a collaboration with UniVerse of Poetry, a station partner that aims to celebrate poets from every nation in the world. Each piece drops us into a poets’ inner life, reminding us of the gift of being human among others.