Spotlight On: Hannah Sawyerr

Hannah V. Sawyerr, a proud 19 year old Sierra Leonean-American woman is making her own history as the first woman youth poet laureate of the city of Baltimore, and she is illustrating Black Girl Magic one poem at a time.

From humble poetic beginnings, Sawyerr told Pray, Say & Slay,

“I first became interested in my field in the 8th grade. I’ve always loved writing and have kept journals since I was really young, but in the 8th grade we studied poetry in my English class and from then on I’ve been in love with spoken word poetry. My first ever performance was in the 8th grade. I performed it at a teen summit at church. The poem ironically was about everything I disliked about the church. When I first started studying spoken word poetry, the first poets I knew of were the poets of the Strivers Row. Watching them is when I first learned the importance of demanding space as a young Black woman.”

Sawyerr joined the Baltimore City Youth Poetry team in 2015 and competed in the world's largest youth poetry competition Brave New Voices. This year, in her last year of being a youth poet she won the Baltimore City Youth Poet Laureate competition, and will have a book of poetry published as well as a book tour.

                                                                            - Church Dresses by Hannah Sawyerr

                                                                            - Church Dresses by Hannah Sawyerr


Sawyerr expands more on her womanhood and the purpose of Church Dresses by saying,

“One of my favorite quotes was written by Sandra Cisneros. ‘I am a woman obsessed with being comfortable in her own skin.’ My womanhood is something I own fearlessly, and something that nobody can take from me and I think it reflects in my writing. Church Dresses, the poem that I am the most proud of is about how I was molested by one of the youth leaders in my home church and also about the woman I aspire and am growing to be. I am growing into a woman that does not seek approval, and it feels wonderful.”

Church Dresses was the first poem where I allowed myself to speak openly about that experience. In the poem one of the lines is ‘It took me over one year to write one single poem about you, so I know at least one of  us understands the concept of consent.’ Women and men that raised me still defend him, believe him to this day, despite the fact that I was young and they watched me grow up and it hurts to know that. But the same place where I saw so much ugliness is also the same place where I experienced the love of so many beautiful people and I can’t thank them enough for loving me the way they do. I’d like to believe that their love reveals the love of the God that I want to serve.”

Despite her challenging past in her young teens, Sawyerr is focused on the future, and uses her past as fuel towards her dreams and goals.

"In five years, I see myself teaching English with my degree from Morgan State University and continuing to write and perform. That is something I never want to stop doing. And growing! I always want to continue to grow.”

To find more of Sawyerr's work visit her on Instagram and Twitter @hannsawyerr

We hope grows to achieve everything she wants in life, and enjoys her time as Baltimore Youth Poet Laureate.

Pray, Say & Slay Team