Amiri Baraka and Sonia Sanchez join many in Poetry Marathon

The 8-year-old had 10 autographs in her spiral notebook by 6 p.m., though Nailah Phillip was determined to get more by the time she left the Poetry Marathon on Saturday.

Hosted by the Black Writers Museum, the event started at 11 a.m. and went all day and most of the night, through 11 p.m., and featured the work of poets from all over the area, including readings by Amiri Baraka and Sonia Sanchez.

About 100 poets signed up to read their works, but the organizers squeezed in another 50 who showed interest the day of. The celebration of black poetry united new and old poets, as well as published and unpublished ones. In addition to reciting poems, Baraka and Sanchez received the “Living Legends of Poetry” award presented by the Museum.

A big accomplishment was getting young poets involved, said Supreme Dow, the executive director for the museum. Breona Kidd, a student at the Philadelphia High School for Girls who read a poem called “Happiness,” was one of those.

In a melodic tone, Pat McClean spoke about poverty and overpopulated families. The presentation of her poetry is supposed to have the same effect as when someone catches themselves unknowingly singing a song, she said.

McClean has been inspired by her neighborhood.

“We believe we still don’t have a struggle,” she said of the problems that do exist. “But we do.”

Osayimwese Nadir Karume, who described himself as coming from the same circle as McClean, took it one step further and mixed singing and spoken word. He was mimicking poetry of the past, which was performed with drums, he said.

His interest in poetry began when he was 12, and he started studying Langston Hughes.

For Joan Walker, the event is a great opportunity to connect the young black community, she said.

“I’m hoping the idea gets out,” Walker said. “ I think it’s important that we begin to move forward.”

Yazmin Monet Watkins, 23, thought the event was empowering.

She is on her first international poetry tour, which includes Paris, London, New York and Philadelphia. The Los Angeles native found out about the event the day before and was excited to speak in an event that she said felt like home.

Her poem, “Note to Self,” is a positive reminder of what one has to offer.

Meanwhile, the poet known as Brenardo, focuses on truths that may not be apparent to others.

“It takes a village to raise a child,” he said to the crowd. “But tell me. Who’s going to raise the village?”

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.