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A poet laureate could be in the cards for the future of arts in the City of Buffalo

Posted at 5:41 PM, Jul 22, 2019

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The City of Buffalo could possibly have its own poet laureate.

Jillian Hanewsworth, a 26-year-old poet, walked into Masten District Councilman Ulysees Wingo’s office and proposed the position.

That proposal will go before the entire common council as a resolution Tuesday.

Wingo calls this a progressive position, one that would help artistically express the sentiments of residents at city sponsored events.

“Buffalo is an urban life center, and because of that, there are an increasing number of minorities that need to be represented in the City of Buffalo,” he said. “Therefore, there needs to be someone who can speak to those issues who can accurately represent the communities who would otherwise not have a voice.”

Hanesworth is a Performing Arts grad who went on to pursue a career in advocacy work, but she says she first started getting into poetry after spending a lot of time watching the news.

“One of my first pieces actually goes, ‘I wish the little black boy did something wrong.’”

She said she was watching rally after rally staring with Ferguson and her work became a manifestation of saying what she felt everyone was thinking.

“Your first thought is, ‘please tell me something happened, please tell me he wasn’t just unarmed, minding his own business.’”

Since then, Hanesworth says she has performed at over 200 events and memorizes all of her pieces.

She realized there is a poet laureate for the state, but doesn’t think it’s enough.

“It’s hard for someone to represent an entire state, a lot of the social issues may be the same, but the way those issues manifest can be so different.”

Wingo said he is looking to the city’s commissioner of the arts to help craft the parameters of what this position would look like in term of pay and term length.

Hanesworth said she would be interested in filling the first term to help work out the kinks and also lead by example for what she hopes the position will become long-term.

“Every person who takes on this role a poet laureate, they may have a different focus,” she said. “The people they want to speak to, and speak for may be different but I want each person who takes on this role to advocate for something.”