Spotlight on BPL Youth

Johnna Artis, at Brooklyn Public Library - CentralJohnna Artis, a long-time patron of BPL (Central, Cortelyou, Crown Heights, Flatlands, Kensington, Kings Highway, and Mill Basin) and a library volunteer, was one of the youngest semi-finalists in the 2011 Urban Word Knicks Poetry Slam program. The program is open to youth, ages 13 to 18 years old. Several BPL staff members were in the audience rooting for her. Johnna plans to participate again in next year’s poetry slam and will continue to attend Brooklyn Open, a monthly forum held in the Dweck Center to hone her poetry and performance skills. The 2011 Knicks Poetry Slam is not the first time Johnna shared her poetry. Her poem “Love is a Battlefield” was published in Anthology of Poetry, 2008 edition.

As a T4 (Today’s Teens, Tomorrow’s Techies) intern, she has gained new skills in technology and helps teens in the Youth Wing at the Central Library. As a volunteer in the Youth Wing for the past three years, she has been involved with the Acting Group, Book Club, and several video projects, including Homework Help NYC and “I Love My Library”.

The “I Love My Library” video won 3rd place in the “Why I Need My Library” contest from the American Library Association and the BPL received a $1,000 prize. What does her mom have to say about all this: “The library is a wonderful resource outlet and safe haven for Johnna. The training, experience and opportunity at the library would not have happened anywhere else in the world.”

Video: "I Red heart shape My Library"



Featured Black History Month Poetry

by Johnna Artis
Johnna read this poem at the Poetry Slam, originally written for a school assignment for Domestic Awareness Violence Month.

Blacken my eye and twist my arm
You make me feel like everything I do is wrong,
You say you love me but I can't believe that's true
My black and blues have more say than you
Everyday you say you're sorry and That you meant me no harm
Now I'm sitting here in the hospital because of a broken arm
The way I love you it can't be wrong
I felt like I loved you my whole life long
My friends they question me and I need an alibi
Dark shades at night long sleeves in July
Where would it end
Do I have to die to prove that you love me
My arm in a cast my eye swollen shut my cracked ribs that pain me so much
I drag my suitcase with my 1 good arm down 3 flights of stairs and into the car
My goal is to get away very far
I see you turn the corner and I jump in fear
My heart beating so fast I think I'm a goner
Seemingly from nowhere a crowd comes together
My sisters my mother my aunt my girlfriends and even some of them police woman are there to support me
And stop the likes of you.
You begin to protest but you feel all their strength
I step out of the car I look all around to see all the support I have found and firmly I stand my ground
I say to you we are over we're done we're thru
I have 1 feeling left and it is pity for you

by Najaya Royal
Najaya wrote this poem in the Celebrate Black History Month Writing Clinic led by Angeli, BPL staff member.
I break solid ground as if I am an earthquake
Though my fighting spirit is inopportune in their eyes
The burden is elusive
I am held against my will I am a slave

I break solid ground as if i am an earthquake
Allowing my message to become eminent
Can you hear me?
I rest in the hearts of the ones who carry a dream

I break solid ground as if I am an earthquake
But my heart is timid
My words blare like they are a note flowing from a saxophone
And I hope for the meaning to break boundaries
Between my world and yours

Are We Free?
By Eva
Eva wrote this poem in the Youth Services' Writing Clinic at Central Library, facilitated by Angeli, BPL staff member

When I saw him August 28,1963, I thought I saw heaven.
Orange, red, yellow, all the colors of sunsets.
He was peaceful.
He was like a messenger from God.
But there was something wrong.
The noise.
I mean I like noise like waves crashing against each other.
But this was different.
They were yelling over what I thought was Martin Luther King's mellifluous voice.
They shouted, "You black fool!You black fool!"
For this came to heart because I too am black.
I thought this was a place were you can ask, Are we free?
And someone responded, Yes.
But I guess my thought was wrong, for what I see.
This world chooses who it wants to be.
There are many other choices to be free.