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Nine-Year-Old Harlem Native Kayden Hern Becomes NY State Poet Laureate

Up-and-coming nine-year-old poet laureate Kayden Hern received a standing ovation while reciting his poem titled In My Mind at Governor Kathy Hochul's inauguration ceremony. As reported by Atlanta Black Star, his poem presents the unique perspective of an African American boy living in a society marked by the tragedy of George Floyd's death.

As an emerging young talent, Hern's literary gifts are gaining media buzz after participating in the New York governor's inaugural lineup on January 1. Hern lives in Harlem, New York, with his grandmother Jacqueline Hern who raises him. She helped foster a passion for poetry, which led to him receiving an opportunity at Hochul's inauguration ceremony.

In the wake of George Floyd's murder, turmoil and civil unrest shook the nation to its core. Responses to this horrific event were mainly voiced by adults. However, through Hern's poem, the startling injustice could be conceptualized from a child's perspective.

According to Atlanta Black Star, his grandmother's Q&A writing assignment would unwittingly cultivate a reflective literary work on race. Inspired by Black history and social justice he learned from home and school, Hern began to create poems with meaningful messages that conveyed his point of view. Although his grandmother assists with some of the content, she stated that he writes most of his poetry independently.

After noticing her grandson's interest in and talent for poetry, Jacqueline decided to take him to the Apollo Theater in Harlem so he could be immersed in poetry on a grander scale. Motivated by this experience, Hern took the plunge and began to perform at the Apollo Theater's amateur nights, which led to him meeting Democratic Gov. Hochul last summer. Impressed by Hern's talent, Hochul promised to make him her poet laureate if she won the election. Fulfilling her promise, Hochul invited him to her inauguration.

"I heard my ancestor cry. They help clear the path so others do not have to die. Justice and peace, father please help me. That is what I heard in my mind," Hern recited during the inauguration.

As expected, Jacqueline Hern is very proud of her grandson and looks forward to what he will become in the future. As he is only in 4th grade, Hern's career options range from being a car salesman to becoming US president.

Check out his speech below.


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