Avalon Hogans, Houston Youth Poet Laureate Photo: Jimmie Aggison

You might have seen this young lady gracing the stages from Houston City Hall to The Hobby Center for Performing and Visual Arts reciting thought-provoking poetry on social justice issues.

Avalon Hogans is a teenage activist, writer, and the city’s sixth Houston Youth Poet Laureate. She was appointed to serve from fall 2021 to 2022 and has implemented a civic engagement project in collaboration with Houston Poet Laurate Emanuelee “Outspoken” Bean as part of her duty to inspire the youth and address societal issues through poetry.

Hogans is currently a freshman at Rice University majoring in English and Minoring in African American studies and is already making her make as one of the speakers at the 60th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s moon speech at the Rice University.

The Houston Youth Poet Laureate is a joint program created by the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs and Houston Public Library aimed to identifying young writers and leaders committed to civic and community engagement across Houston.

Her term may be coming to an end, but she isn’t slowing down anytime soon. Hogans spoke with the Defender to discuss in the position the lessons she has learned about herself in the process.

Defender: When were you first introduced to poetry?

Hogans: I was first introduced to poetry in middle school. I started reading authors like Maya Angelou and Langston Hughes. From there I fell in love with the art. I attended the Kinder High School of Performing Arts. That’s where I studied creative writing for four years and focused on poetry.

Defender: You were a recent graduate of the Kinder High School of Performing Arts. Did attending the school help shape your love for poetry and activism?

Hogans: I was in the creative writing department, so we would study poetry, non-fiction, and playwriting. What I really loved in the writing department was how we focused on poetry, spoken word, and other interdisciplinary arts. We were able to collaborate with different art departments. I took acting and improv classes and things that would help me feel more confident on stage. I enjoyed being in a place where I could study my passion.

Defender: What poets or literature inspires your work?

Hogans: Audrey Lorde and Nikki Giovanni. They are Black women who write about their experience as Black women. They use their art to convey their activism. It’s a beautiful thing because they draw from identity and personal experience and they connect that to larger themes that affect all of us in society. [Also] I’m inspired by the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s.

Defender: How do you describe your style of poetry?

Hogans: I would describe my style of poetry as personal, but also related to social justice. Just like my idols Audrey Lorde and Nikki Giovanni, it really starts from a place of self. I started writing about myself, my experiences and connect it to larger ideas such as racism, sexism, misogyny, and homophobia. Once I did that, I noticed crowds getting more interested in them. I performed my pieces at rallies, protests, and events that promote the same themes and ideas that I wrote in my own work.

Defender: What does your work flow entail?

Hogans: It depends on what I want the specific poem to be about. For instance, I performed at Houston City Hall for the march for Our Lives rally. I knew I wanted to write a poem that had something to about [gun reform]. Then I thought about how I can create this piece to make it more authentic. I wrote a reflection on what it was like being in elementary school and having to deal with intruder alarms and stuff like that.

Defender: As the Houston Youth Poet Laureate, what are your responsibilities?

Hogans: It’s a title/position sponsored by the Houston Public Library and Mayor Sylvester Turner’s Office of Cultural Affairs. Part of that responsibility is representing Houston through my poems. I’ve performed for Houston City Hall, Missouri City NAACP, and the Women’s League for Voting Rights. It’s what you make of the position. You uplift others and spread goodwill.

Defender: What projects are you working on?

Hogans: Every poet laurate is supposed to have a service project. My service project over the summer took place at Post Houston and I hosted a book drive at a Juneteenth event. The event was called ‘Black is Primary’ which is put on by the Houston Poet Laureate, which is like the formal adult position for the title. I’m currently working on collaborations with local groups, honing in on my passions as I work towards ending systemic racism, education equity, and hate.

Defender:  What have you learned about yourself serving in this role?

Hogans: When it comes to certain issues, it’s not hard for me to speak my mind. Growing up I was an incredibly shy kid. I didn’t think what I say mattered. So now I’m given this platform, the stage, the microphone, and I have these crowds listening to me. I never thought I would be in the position to educate others. I am a leader.

Laura Onyeneho

I cover Houston's education system as it relates to the Black community for the Defender as a Report for America corps member. I'm a multimedia journalist and have reported on social, cultural, lifestyle,...