Q & A with Grace Ruo

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A few weeks back, we sent the new St. Louis Youth Poet Laureate a few questions to answer about her laureateship. Grace replied with the thoughtful answers below. It was so telling that I wanted to share them more broadly.

What does being the 2021 Saint Louis Youth Poet Laureate mean to you?

Being the 2021 Saint Louis Youth Poet Laureate is not just my victory. The first thing my parents did after receiving the news was call my grandmother in Kenya. She told me how proud she was that America is so eager to hear what I have to say. This achievement is proof that the stories I tell of my people not only matter, but that they deserve to take up space.


What do you hope to do this year as Saint Louis Youth Poet Laureate?

I hope to show Black girls in STL that their voices are worthy of being noted. When I was younger, I saw nobody that looked like me pursuing writing, which made me feel as if I wouldn’t achieve anything if I had gone about pursuing it. By taking up this space, I hope to show other Black girls that they, too, are deserving of it.


Why did you want to become the next Saint Louis Youth Poet Laureate?

Much of my writing contains no hidden meanings; It’s stories of my everyday circumstances. I wanted to become the next STL YPL to prove to myself & my loved ones that the best way to get what you want is by being your most authentic self. That your truth is not only valid, it’s valued.


Are there any particular social issues that you’d like to address as Saint Louis Youth Poet Laureate?

I’d like to address the stigmatization of mental health in the Black community, with a focus on the Kenyan community. In 2017 and 2018, the Kenyan community lost two members of our youth to suicide. Instead of talking to the rest of the youth about mental health, adults told us to strengthen our relationship with God. Meanwhile, had there not have been a stigmatization to begin with, Gift and Paul may still be with us today. As YPL, I’d like to help create more spaces in which conversations about mental health are held.


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