OKLAHOMA CITY - A local poetry event is celebrating its first anniversary, and over the past year it has grown to inspire dozens of young people to express themselves through spoken word.

A packed house has become the norm for the biweekly Poetry and Chill open mic night. Organizer Gregory II says he is thrilled to see so many people finding their voice. “People start to get confidence,” he says. “They start to perform and we give everybody a chance.”

One of these newfound poets is Day'Quann Ervin, who discovered Poetry and Chill after graduating high school earlier this year. He says, “As far as young black adolescent males, we think with emotion a lot of the time, and that’s why we retaliate out of anger or even fear sometimes, so I feel like with this poetry stuff, what that does is give you a platform to express yourself.”

Ervin is now a freshman at UCO pursuing a PhD in Psychology. At Poetry and Chill, express himself he does. In one reading he bellows, “I was raised with morals and respect, and a piece of each one of those individuals lives through me, so my age you will never be able to calculate or neglect.”

Many of the experiences shared at Poetry and Chill are filled with pain and suffering. One poet asks, “How are we mistaken for X-Men? This ain’t a mutant that you shooting with unbreakable skin.”

Organizer Anthony Crawford, Jr., who works as a middle school teacher during the day, says speaking about problems helps to heal. “A lot of us are traumatized,” he says of the black community, “and poetry is like therapy for most of us, so that’s why this is important.”

As the open mic night continues to grow, they invite artists of all backgrounds to come perform. “I want people to love themselves, so that’s really what Poetry and Chill is about, self-love,” proclaims Gregory II.

The free anniversary event is Sept. 22 at Bistro 46 on NE 23rd Street. Doors open at 8:30 p.m.

Organizers are also launching a kids' version of Poetry and Chill starting in October. “We need to become a community,” Crawford says. “It takes a village to raise a child, and our youth needs us.”

To learn more about upcoming events or connect with organizers, click here.