9-Year-Old From Harlem Defies All Odds and Becomes the Poet Laureate of New York State
Harlem’s Kayden Hern met the Governor by accident. She asked him to perform as the poet laureate for her inauguration.
Powerful words have the ability to shed boundaries and bring people together. One 9-year-old from Harlem shared some words that will echo for generations to come.
At the end of 2022, Kayden Hern was at the Apollo Theatre in New York City. He was told there would be a special guest for amateur night so Kayden waited by the doors in hopes to get a picture. The special guest: Kathy Hochul, New York Governor candidate.
Kayden Meets the Governor
Upon arrival, Kathy noticed the boy waiting eagerly amongst the crowd. She decided to stop and ask him a few questions. “There’s a long line around the block, and I saw this young man standing there.” Kathy recalled, “I said, ‘You’re going in to watch somebody?’ He says, ‘No, I’m a poet. I’m going to go recite.”
Kathy then asked Kayden to recite one of his poems, expecting him to pull out a piece of paper. Kayden didn’t need help, he had a beautiful poem memorized and recited on the spot.
“I was excited,” Kayden remembers, “Yeah, because at the Apollo, I just wanted to take a picture with her.” Blown away by Kayden’s words, Kathy made a promise that would soon change the young man’s life. The governor promised him she would invite him to speak at her inauguration as her poet laureate if she was elected. She was elected and kept her word.
At the Governor’s inauguration, Kayden performed an original piece titled, “In My Mind”.
In my mind, I used to be a child of poverty, not knowing that hopes and dreams can become reality. In my mind, I thought it was fine to sit in the back of the classroom because my teacher never asked me to read or write. But little did she know I was ever so bright.
His words received a roaring ovation from the New York crowd. Listeners were pleasantly surprised by the viewpoint of a young man from their city. Perhaps Kayden didn’t even understand the power his short poem could have.
Finding Inspiration in Family
Kayden’s poem “In My Mind” was heavily influenced by his grandmother Jackie Hern. Kayden began writing poetry with his grandmother during the pandemic. “During the pandemic and homeschooling in 2020, I had a lot of free time to write my poems.” Kayden said, “I was asking my grandmother a lot of questions. She told me to write down my thoughts and she wrote down some of her thoughts, that eventually became the poem.”
The words of a young man were the glue for the inauguration of a governor. Kayden is grateful for the opportunity given to him by Kathy Hochul and is eager to put together new material.
Nowadays, Kayden is somewhat of a celebrity around Harlem. His school honoured him as the poet laureate and his classmates even asked him to sign their backpacks.
Kayden and Jackie constructed their experiences and hardships in a manner that’s relatable and powerful. The product they came up with was a beautiful poem that shed boundaries and resonated with anyone listening.