OKLAHOMA CITY - A growing local poetry movement is expanding its reach to the next generation. This week marks the start of a new venture for organizers of Poetry and Chill, a free after school workshop that aims to foster young writers.

Starting Thursday, October 25, kids from around the city are invited to the Northeast Community Center to explore their talents in the arts and learn how to turn them into a career.

Putting pen to the paper has always been an escape for 17-year-old Dominique Bunting. She is excited that many of her classmates are now poetry hunting.

“That was a big culture of thinking, that books and writing was lame,” she says, “and to see this, see positive stuff, people are going to be like, they’re cool and they’re doing it, so clearly writing is cool.”

That is the goal for Poetry and Chill founder Gregory II.

“A lot of people in rap don’t know it’s Rhythm and Poetry,” he says, “so teach them about that. Teach them about what was from Oklahoma City and where poetry came from and the Renaissance and how poets actually shifted the culture and shifted the revolution, so we really want them to know the roots of it.”

In addition to learning in verse, workshop participants will converse with local arts professionals who turned their passion into profit.

Gregory says, “We’re going to have rappers come through, producers, DJs, and we’re going to teach them how to market themselves properly, so they can have their own independent record label or company one day.”

The team will also travel around Oklahoma City schools to perform and teach the history of how arts have transformed culture to students who cannot make it to the workshops.

Last week the Poetry and Chill group hosted their first kids' showcase, with poets, singers and dancers putting on a brave face to share their talents. Teens like 16-year-old dancer Acqureia Lay say local arts programs like this have helped them find confidence.

“It makes me happy,” says Lay. “I just know when I go home, I don’t have to worry about anything at school because I’m just me.”

The performers hope to inspire more peers to overcome their fears.

Bunting says, “Even if I don’t go on to become a really great poet, I probably touched some people’s lives along the way.”

The workshops will happen every Thursday from 4-6 p.m. until the end of the school year, except for weeks that school is out. Food will be provided each week, and transportation help is available. To learn more about the program, click here.

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