Detroit's new poet laureate, Jessica Care Moore, vows to celebrate, promote hometown

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Mayor Mike Duggan on Tuesday announced the city's new poet laureate, who will be responsible for composing poems for special events and occasions in Detroit.

Jessica Care Moore, founder and producer of Black WOMEN Rock! and founder of The Moore Art House, a nonprofit dedicated to improving literacy in Detroit, will take on the role. Moore's identifiable voice was behind the "Move the World" campaign, a video used to make a pitch for an Amazon headquarters in Detroit. The new poet laureate took the stage at Newlab at Michigan Central in the most Moore way — by poetically thanking officials for her position and reading a poem.

"I've been called the Detroit poet laureate for so many years and I've always had to tell people, 'No Naomi Long Madgett is the poet laureate.' If I don’t read something, I'm just gonna stand here and cry. So, whatupdoe? In the centennial year of my dad's birth, I'm extremely honored to be chosen to serve as the next poet laureate of the city of Detroit," Moore said. "Detroit is the starting line of the world's imagination. It's the line I wrote and one of my many homages I have written to lift up, celebrate, properly explain and promote my hometown for decades."

Detroit Arts, Culture, and Entrepreneurship; with the city of Detroit; announces the new Detroit Poet Laureate Jessica Care Moore at Newlab in Detroit on Tuesday, April 30, 2024. A lifelong Detroiter, Moore is an award-winning poet and activist, as well as a new filmmaker. She is the founder and producer of Black WOMEN Rock! - Daughters of Betty, a 20-year-old rock concert designed to empower women and the founder of The Moore Art House, a nonprofit dedicated to improving literacy through the arts across the city.

Moore is filling the role for Madgett, who died at 97 years old and served as poet laureate from 2001 to 2020, the year she died. Moore will not only plan and lead poetry events across Detroit, but she will also give an annual address to the city at the Detroit Public Library, participate in programs that reflect the city's diversity and write a poem for year-end presentation, according to the city.

The Ford Foundation is sponsoring her position, and will also sponsor the city's first composer laureate, who will be announced in June. The foundation also sponsors the city's historian, which the mayor created in 2021.

'I Am Detroit Summer' author

Kevin Ryan, senior program officer on the civic engagement and government team, said he was able to find his community through Moore when he saw her perform in New York.

Jessica Care Moore was announced as the new poet laureate of Detroit at Newlab in Detroit on Tuesday, April 30, 2024. She holds a copy of her latest book, "We Want Our Bodies Back."
Jessica Care Moore was announced as the new poet laureate of Detroit at Newlab in Detroit on Tuesday, April 30, 2024. She holds a copy of her latest book, "We Want Our Bodies Back."

"I'm really looking forward to what this means for Detroit and how it inspires young people in Detroit to really think about the strength they have and to be able to express that," Ryan said.

Last year, Moore was commissioned to write a series of poems on the city and state, and became the voice of Pure Michigan, writing the "I Am Detroit Summer" poem.

"We are so proud to be one of the few cities in America with an official city historian named Jamon Jordan, who is teaching Detroit powerful past history that every American should know and every Michigan child should learn," said Rochelle Riley, Detroit's director of arts and culture. "But we are adding laureates and poetry today and music in June, and it speaks to how much Detroit and Mayor Mike Duggan value culture and the contributions of Detroiters to every aspect of American life."

Coming out of bankruptcy, the city of Detroit, Duggan said in sharing his vision, could be on a national stage celebrated for hosting sports events. But he also wanted the city to return to celebrating Detroit's arts and culture.

Rochelle Riley, director of the Detroit Arts, Culture & Entrepreneurship with the City of Detroit, announces Jessica Care Moore as Detroit's new poet laureate at Newlab in Detroit on Tuesday, April 30, 2024.
Rochelle Riley, director of the Detroit Arts, Culture & Entrepreneurship with the City of Detroit, announces Jessica Care Moore as Detroit's new poet laureate at Newlab in Detroit on Tuesday, April 30, 2024.

"Four years ago, when we lost the great Naomi Long Madgett, there's been a hole in this city. She was our poet laureate for a long time," Duggan said. "Jessica's poetry has been recorded with hip-hop legends and techno pioneers. She's performed at major national events and even turned her work into a full-scale theatrical production. Her poetry has won numerous state and national awards, and I don't think there's any question that in 2024, Jessica Care Moore is authentically the voice of Detroit."

Moore's publishing house, Moore Black Press, has published Saul Williams, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, Asha Bendele and Danny Simmons. She will publish their first poetry and spoken word audiobooks through a deal with HarperCollins, according to the city.

Jessica Care Moore chats with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan as she is announced as the new poet laureate of Detroit at Newlab in Detroit on Tuesday, April 30, 2024.
Jessica Care Moore chats with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan as she is announced as the new poet laureate of Detroit at Newlab in Detroit on Tuesday, April 30, 2024.

Dana Afana is the Detroit city hall reporter for the Free Press. Contact: dafana@freepress.com. Follow her: @DanaAfana.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Mayor Duggan appoints Jessica Care Moore as Detroit poet laureate