Ypsi/Richmond Poetry Cultural Exchange Program
Ypsilanti, Michigan and Richmond, California are both historically Black, family-oriented communities that are being impacted by gentrification. As the Black population is being displaced, young leaders in these communities are working to preserve culture and use creative approaches to defend affordable housing. Last year, a coalition was formed in Richmond called “Staying Power,” connecting artistic projects by Richmond natives with political strategies. This year, we are expanding this successful model from California to Michigan, creating a year-long cultural exchange program between 8 teens from Richmond and 8 teens from Ypsilanti. The program will launch with a 4-day artist leadership retreat in Richmond, led by former poet laureate Donte Clark. Following the retreat, the two cohorts will Skype for weekly workshops during which they will write spoken word and music around issues of housing, belonging and displacement, culminating with live productions in their local communities. Through this project, teens will engage in cross-cultural learning by traveling to each other’s cities and come to see their power as agents for change, building a national network of youth-led arts activism around issues of housing and racial justice.