On May 31, 2019, the Police Athletic League held its annual Poetry Jam, showcasing the winners of the PAL Arts After-School Program’s annual Poetry Writing Contest, at Affirmation Arts in Manhattan. This year’s theme and corresponding title of the 2019 Poetry Anthology is Identity. Dana Wheeler, PAL Director of Education and Program Development, said, “This is an exciting event because we see substantial growth in the students from the beginning of the year, and it allows us to celebrate and acknowledge their efforts in a beautiful space.”
Each year, PAL After-School Program participants, representing different cultural backgrounds, age groups and New York City neighborhoods, come together to express themselves through poetry. They skillfully use language, along with poetry-writing and public-speaking techniques developed through collaboration with Leigh Mills, Libby Mislan and Allan Bounville of the Community Word Project, to produce a look into their identity.
Placing an emphasis on creativity and the imagination, the annual Poetry Jam acknowledges the talent of children from PAL centers citywide. The winning poems were compiled in an anthology, featuring the original poetry and artwork of students across the five boroughs, including Harem trailblazer and resident, Nygerria.
Nygerria, a sixth grader from the PAL Harlem Center, said, “I was mad at something that had happened at school, so as soon as I got home, I started writing. I just put everything on paper.” Her poem, “Mirror of Bradley,” is featured in the anthology.
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Here’s a section from sixth grader Nygerria’s winning poem Mirror of Bradley:
… Right now by the sounds, the winds are strong and rough.
I left at an early age, life can be so tough
Love can make you fly
Soar across the skies
Love can break your heart and believe in a brand new start…
– Nygerria, 6th Grade, PAL Harlem Center
Following the presentations of featured works, the event concluded with the distribution of plaques acknowledging the artistic abilities to win students.
New York City’s Police Athletic League is the first and finest civilian-run PAL in the country. Founded in 1914, PAL has served the city’s young people for over 100 years. PAL provides recreational, educational, cultural and social activities to 30,000 boys and girls annually. It is also the city’s largest, independent, nonprofit youth organization. For more information, please visit www.palnyc.org.
Photo credit: PAL 2019 Poetry Writing Contest winners and their families gather at Affirmation Arts in Manhattan. By Police Athletic League.