Cydney Brown, a junior at Abington Friends, began writing poetry when she was in fifth grade, but never dreamed of publishing books or being recognized by city leaders. Still, that’s just where she finds herself — at age 16.
Brown was named the Youth Poet Laureate in September, selected from a competitive pool of applicants from around the city. She succeeds Mia Concepcion, a recent graduate of Science Leadership Academy.
Forced by COVID-19 to spend months inside, Brown chose to focus on what came naturally to her — writing. She connected with other writers online, showcased her work via an Instagram page, and even published an e-book of her work.
And when Brown found out about the possibility of becoming the city’s youth poetry voice, she jumped, moving through a tough interview process that ultimately resulted in her getting the good news of her appointment and, she said, jumping around her house, screaming with joy.
“My family was praying the whole week, and it happened,” said Brown.
Now, Brown has a citywide platform and plans to use it, through virtual readings and youth-led discussions. She’s passionate about social justice issues and wants to keep them front and center during her tenure.
“I really want to make my voice heard and let young people know that we have the power to change things,” said Brown. “As youth, sometimes we think we can’t do big things, we can’t vote yet. But we do have power, and our voices are important.”
Brown cut her teeth on the poetry of Maya Angelou and Robert Frost — “Still I Rise” and “Nothing Gold Can Stay" are among the poems she cherishes most, but she feels she’s still growing as a writer.
“I want to give people the space to write more, and to learn more about themselves through poetry,” she said. “Everyone needs a space where they feel free."
Trapeta B. Mayson, Philadelphia poet laureate, said she is delighted for Brown.
“I’m looking forward to partnering with her to amplify the voices of young people,” Mayson said. “Cydney will be a great poetry ambassador for our city — not only is she a talented poet, she is also committed to community service.”
A longtime Girl Scout, Brown launched a mentoring program as part of her Gold Award service project. Her Project GOOD — Girls Overcome Obstacles Daily — is a virtual space for middle and high school girls to connect, work through issues, and form and talk about healthy relationships.
Brown, who’s attending classes at Abington Friends virtually these days, previously attended Holy Child School in Rosemont and a cyber charter. She lives with her parents and older sister and loves to bake and cook.
But writing will always be first in her heart, said Brown, who would like to eventually study business at the University of Pennsylvania or Howard University.
“The power of poetry is so incredible,” she said. “It can help you heal.”
In addition to announcing Brown as its top choice, the city’s Poet Laureate Governing Committee, run by the Free Library of Philadelphia, also named Londyn Edwards, a junior at Science Leadership Academy, as finalist for the post.