Meet Danielle Obisie-Orlu, Allegheny County’s New Young Poet Laureate – PublicSource


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When Danielle Obisie-Orlu learned that she had won the title of Allegheny County Youth Poet Laureate, her first reaction was not entirely literary.

“I was like, wait. What? “She said laughing.” I was shocked. And I felt so beautifully asserted. I have always written in poetry. This is how I journal, this is how I distress. The exclamation of “what” was what a surprise, what a blessing, what a joy, what a gift, what an honor. “

Obisie-Orlu is the second Young Poet Laureate in the Allegheny County Program which began in 2020 to recognize young writers who are passionate about social issues and actively engaged in civic life. In addition to the designation, Obisie-Orlu will receive a $ 500 prize, paid performance opportunities throughout the year, entry into the regional competition for young poets laureates from the Northeast, and publication in the anthology of the National Youth Poet Laureate Network. Four other winning writers are nominated as young poet ambassadors. (Read their poems below.)

The University of Pittsburgh junior certainly ticked all the boxes. She focuses on international studies and political science, including European Union-funded research on immigration and xenophobia. She is a mentor for Global Ties and a student ambassador for the Center for European Studies. Obisie-Orlu spent the summer working as a counselor with ARYSE, an organization in Pittsburgh that supports refugee and immigrant children. She has contributed as a mentor, teaching English as a second language, and created a public speaking platform to help children tell their stories.

“This opportunity was amazing and luckily I can work with them in different capacities throughout the year. I am really delighted to continue this relationship, ”said Obisie-Orlu. “Honestly, I think there is a pool of compassion that we have within us and the more time you spend outside of your own little bubble, the deeper that well of compassion gets.”

His “Poem for the Expatriate” is a charming and insightful tribute to the sense of belonging and identity that immigrants struggle to find. A Nigerian-American who grew up in South Africa, Obisie-Orlu’s writing and career ambitions – she plans to pursue law studies in international human rights law with a specialization in social policy – are inspired by her life as an immigrant: not quite suitable as an American, South African or Nigerian.

“I’ve been dealing with this for a long time,” she says. “I wanted to make sure that whatever I did there was a voice inside saying that even if you don’t feel like you belong in a certain place, you belong to yourself first and you will always belong to you. -same.

“Basically it all comes from my personal experience,” says Obisie-Orlu. “What I do in terms of art and what I do in terms of academics is exactly the same thing. The support is just different. My personal experiences of growing up as a dark skinned black woman in South Africa and the United States have really shaped the way I hold myself. “

Obisie-Orlu hopes his research will advance the African concept of Ubuntu at an international level.

“Ubuntu basically means ‘I am because you are.’ It’s something breathtakingly beautiful, an approach to life that is about valuing each other’s human dignity, ”she explains. “I want to be able to understand these endemic issues and come to a place where I can say, ‘I recognize my humanity in you.’ And it doesn’t matter who you are. You belong to yourself. I belong to myself. We just decided to be together under these circumstances and we’re going to be able to make sure the world is better. “

On September 29 at 7 p.m. Danielle Obisie-Orlu will read her poetry at a City of Asylum Jazz Poetry Festival event with musician James Brandon Lewis. RAD (Allegheny Regional Asset District) and Urban Word NYC have partnered with City of Asylum to support the Youth Poet Laureate of Allegheny County program.

Poem for the expatriate

by Danielle Obisie-Orlu

my dear heart

Hope you have found your home.
I hope the breeze from the east gently brushes your cheek
While you rest in the sunny south.

my dear heart

Hope you feel out of place.
I hope your carnivorous mind
Didn’t stop telling them to eat their hearts
When they tell you to choose:

“Choose a language. A country. A name. An identity.”

A dream
for the future.

A place
call home.

my dear heart

I hope you know your identity is yours
And no one can take it off.
You might feel lost in every culture you touched,
But I promise when you look inside
You will find an imprint of their footsteps.

my dear heart

You don’t need to ask permission
See yourself as more than the sum of your parts.
You are not an outcast.
You are the embodiment of change.

Young poets ambassadors

Phoenix Thomas. Photo courtesy of the City of Asylum.

colors of anger

by Phoenix Thomas

is there no happiness in anger
isn’t he beautiful
to be so captivated by an emotion
that even your body can’t take the consequences
isn’t that wonderful
how pain can shape you
into something almost unrecognizable
Ain’t it amazing how tears of pain can
dries faster than a pool of blood
then you think, “maybe the rage isn’t worth it”,
but my god, isn’t that beautiful?
how words can paint a picture
but rage can fill a museum
and you my friend
have exhausted the space on your canvas
so you cover your hands
in the colors of anger,
and create such a great masterpiece
that not even you
can recognize your own creation.

Phoenix Thomas, 16, is a junior at Westinghouse Arts Academy, where he is studying writing. He is a member of his school’s Black Students’ Union, which strives to raise black voices and talent throughout the academy. He takes pride in his activism for marginalized communities by participating in local actions for the lives of Blacks, volunteering and writing, which he aims to educate and help others heal.

Ekow Opoku Dakwa. Photo courtesy of the City of Asylum.

they will know me

by Ekow Opoku Dakwa

First day of the school year –
New teachers
New students
New note

I wonder…
How will they react when I open my laptop?
Or when I speak?
Or when I ask for help cutting a piece of paper?
Such simple tasks that are like mountains in my path

Thoughts go through my mind
What do they think-
As I look down and tap while they talk?
I don’t write with a pen
Because these hands don’t write what I ask them
When I speak, don’t they really understand?
Do they mark me as lazy, incapable, incapable?

What I know is that at the end of the year they will know me
My talent, my skills, my passion, my motivation
Oh they will know me!
And they will know that this handicap does not define me

Ekow Opoku Dakwa, 15, attends Allderdice High School. He loves to read, write, program board games and participate in paratriathlons. His interest in chess led him to win the Pittsburgh City Championship for the 24 Challenge Game for his rank. He was a national ambassador for the Do The Write Thing 2020 challenge, from which his essay on youth violence and how it might affect him as a person with a disability is published in the Library of Congress. Its goal is to use writing and programming to create tools and resources for other people with disabilities.

“I think about the issues I face that people without disabilities don’t even have to think about,” says Opoku Dakwa, who suffers from cerebral palsy. “Written words help me express my thoughts more easily than spoken words and allow me to put my ideas into the world.”

Aja Lynn. Photo courtesy of the City of Asylum.

Mind and hand, from pen to paper

by Aja Lynn

I am not the things I write.
Nor the words that come out of my mouth;
My actions and my mistakes,
Are almost indistinguishable these days.

These days I don’t
Regurgitate thoughts that are not mine,
Hoping that the integrity
will always live here.

Hear the hard things
It never gets easier.
But today I will listen, and
Be careful as I should have yesterday.

I have important things to write
But I’m afraid they’re not mine
Put words, say
It is a terribly vulnerable thing.

Things are big and scary,
But this world wants us to forget.
Regret has long strengthened these walls,
And I refuse to leave everything to time.

Time won’t become my excuse
with words that run wild on my tongue
My handwriting is not who I am
But neither does this passivity

I’m young, so
I still have time.
I will fight with my sword, and
Take the pen.

Aja Lynn, 16, is a junior at Hampton High School. As a passionate creative writer, she appreciates the freedom that poetry affords. She is a member of her school’s speech and debate team and is involved with the Drama Club, Musical Club and Writers Club.

“I am pleased to be surrounded by close friends who also have a talent for writing, an ear for the depths and a joy to share thoughts,” she says. So they are the ones I have to thank for making me more sensitive to the poetry that surrounds me and that is waiting to be written.

Shivani Watson. Photo courtesy of the City of Asylum.


by Shivani Watson

I’m haunted by a girl who stepped on it
air. Even the flower fields are filled with bombs
Like comets falling from the sky to
Our house waltzes through a mountain
Ballroom. Our partner is already on fire.

My heart is a fire, living outside my body.
He cooks with me but all I taste is the
Ashes. Our family is woven by
contracts and curses. it will fray
once the shooting stars return to the sky.

Shivani Watson is in her final year at Allerdice High School, where she founded the Environmental Sustainability Club and contributes to environmental activism. She has composed and performed music in the Creative Expressions program at Carnegie Mellon University. And she was an editor and writer for her school’s literary magazine.


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