“I am a poet, and I finally know where I fit in.”
That’s how 14-year-old Savannahian Andre Massey, Jr. finished his speech today at the White House, where First Lady Michelle Obama honored Deep Center and 12 other 2015 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award winners. Executive Director Dare Dukes was one of those on hand and so was Andre’s father, but today’s honor was really about community. Deep’s success is owed to a wide-ranging cast that includes a host of volunteers and many young writers and their supportive families.
If you aren’t familiar with Deep, check out this statement from the website home page:
WE TAKE AN IN-DEPTH APPROACH TO LITERACY.
Deep Center is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that provides free, fun, and rigorous writing workshops for public school students in Savannah, Georgia. We connect kids with a thriving community of writing mentors—local authors, poets, and journalists—to help them share their stories.
Deep Center takes an in-depth approach to literacy by challenging young people to engage with language and their stories through writing, reading, and performance. We help them write and express themselves with skill, confidence, and courage, and we showcase their best work through publication and in live venues.
Deep also strives to raise the voices of diverse young people in our community to ensure their perspectives, stories, and aesthetics are part of our rich cultural fabric, and to afford them the opportunity to engage in critical debates and the development of new cultural forms and movements.
I’m pretty sure I first heard about Deep directly from co-founder Hartford Gongaware, who was spreading the word about the planned program with a booth at an early installment of the Savannah Book Festival. Later, co-founder Catherine Killingsworth presented a fun, interactive talk as part of our ongoing lecture series at the Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home (I’m a former board member and past president).
What an amazing reach Deep has had into the lives of young people in Savannah.
You’ll need to skip ahead to about the 45-minute mark in the embedded video here to see the First Lady’s opening remarks, and Andre can be seen giving a beautiful address around the 56-minute mark:
A couple of posts from Deep’s Facebook page — please click on through and like it.