The power of poetry was on prominent display at the Writers in the Schools 10th annual gala, The Illuminated Forest. We are all supporting tree in that forest proclaimed the evening’s emcee, internationally renowned performance poet, Natasha “Natty” Carrizosa, as she introduced an inspiring array of young writers and one brilliant teacher, Dr. Melanie Malinowski, the event honoree along with Dr. Andy Cunningham.
The celebration chaired by Lucy and Sam Chambers raised funds to help give 4,400 children WITS programming for an entire year. Guests got a sublime taste of how much writers in the schools, parks, and hospitals help children give voice to their lives and imaginations through writing. Powerful readings by 10-year old Gavin DiBella, 12-year old Eris Dao and eight-year old Camryn Collins awed guests and, metaphorically at least, brought the gorgeous Astorian ballroom house down.
The evening also introduced Houston’s newest youth poet laureate and University of Houston freshman, Jackson Neal to the city. The Youth Poet Laureate program is an initiative held in partnership among the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs, the Houston Public Library and WITS.
“I want to encourage all Houstonians to find each other through their stories, to make art and spaces for art to exist, radically, relentlessly,” Neal told the literary-loving WITS supporters.
One of the highlights of the evening came when honoree Melanie Malinowksi told of her time working with children and teens in Texas Children’s Hospital Renal Dialysis Unit where she met Jasmine D., a young student whose perseverance and poetry continues to inspire the teacher.
WITS Executive Director Robin Reagler closed the evening with the chant that WITS writers often use in the classroom: “I have a voice. My voice is powerful. My voice can change the world.”
Celebrating WITS success were honorary chairs Congresswoman-elect Lizzie Fletcher and Scott Fletcher, MaryScott Hagle and Daniel Kornberg, Juni and Chanler Langham, Bryn K. Larsen, Ryan Leach, Marcia and Michael Nichols, Lenora and Frank Inselbuch, F. Xavier Peña, Sara Speer Selber, Ginya and Clayton Trier, and Mitra and Joshua Woody.
Helping to further illuminate the evening were Ashley Turner, Karla Cisneros, Poet Laureate Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton, Debbie McNulty, Radu Barbuceanu, Annie and Campbell Eifler, Beth and Jason Bernal, Grace Rodriguez and Andrew Karnavas, Shari Koziol, Barry Mandel, Carol Herron, Joy Sewing, Carmen Abrego, Dr. Josephine and William Rice, Roberto Tejada, Garrick Malone, Outspoken Bean, Robin Davidson, Emily and James Blackwell, Michael and Laure Pipkin, Anna and Fred Charlton, Kelley and Jack Edwards, Harding and Paige Erwin, Heather and Jeff Firestone, Jeff Gremillion, Lester and Thad Grundy, Lisa Helfman, Richard Hess, Jenny and Roy Moore, Terrell and Abbott Sprague, Tommer Yoked and Julie Tran, Elena White.