The following guest post was written by 2020 National Youth Poet Laureate Meera Dasgupta, who just finished her year-long laureateship.
This year has been unprecedented to say the least. In many ways, I have watched the world renew countless times—where issues made themselves known, I have also seen the resiliency of my fellow humans and countless young people worldwide. From police brutality came the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement across the globe. In the midst of a pandemic, stronger bonds were formed between families and their surrounding communities. For every obstacle came a generation filled with sustainable solutions, ready to paint the world anew.
Despite being the current United States Youth Poet Laureate, I wasn’t sure what to write at first. How do you explain a year’s work—a year that had many more tribulations and triumphs than I have ever known—onto the page? Despite this, I arrived at a realization: you don’t. You cannot write about an experience without being inclusive of those who you have experienced every single day with.
Though I was able to perform for the United Nations countless times, in addition to the Ford Foundation, Rotary International, and many others, the most valuable lessons I have learned have come from the very communities which I, myself, had started. I will always remember the feeling of cooking lunch for my family right before zoom meetings; I will remember the sound of silent laughter as the people on my computer chuckle at my dad-adjacent jokes. In a decade, I know that I will still recall the night that my spoken word family from Urban Word NYC rehearsed poems on zoom until 2 in the morning. From the affirmations in the chat box to the fire emojis lighting up my screen, they made me sure that the people who I met during my tenure as a laureate are those who I will continue to call upon for life.
My advice to all of you—educators and students, local changemakers and future presidents, artists and researchers—is to not only set a goal for the future, but to relish the moments that you have together within the present moment. Use your privilege to uplift those beside you so that we, together, do not have to build new ladders. Rather we, united, can become one.
To cement a few other names here, those other than myself, who are also empowering their communities, I would like to uplift:
Urban Word NYC and the current National Poet Laureate Regional Finalists (Alexandra Huynh, Alora Young, Faye Harrison, and Serena Yang), The Climate Museum, The Human Impacts Institute, Powerplay NYC, Girl Be Heard, Dr. Camea Davis, Shanelle Gabriel, Dustin Liu, Marley Dias, Nupol Kiazolu, Shreya Ramachandran, Deja Foxx, and Jamie Margolin, amongst many others.
These are but a few of the millions of people working every day to cultivate an equitable future for all. Whether through small kindnesses, providing for one’s family, and/or tackling larger issues, your work is needed. This letter is a time capsule of my thoughts; so, on May 13, 2021, let it be said that I see you. I hear you. I appreciate all you do for the good of us.
Because there is good in all of us. I believe this to be true, as in all of us is a need to survive and our survival is dependent now, and forever, on each other. We have sowed the seeds of tomorrow. Now it is time to water them so that as global citizens, it is on this inherited soil that we can someday flourish.