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Louisiana School for the Deaf poet shines with help of teammates

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BATON ROUGE - Creative writing is typically a solitary endeavor. But a group of teen poets in Baton Rouge have found a community of their own with the Forward Arts Summer Poetry Workshop.

Though each young writer is unique, their love of poetry connects them. Jordan Howard is the workshop's only Deaf member and fluent signer.  He's found that poetry is a way to relate to his hearing peers.

"I've enjoyed this workshop," Howard says. "It's taught me things I didn't understand. Seeing as I'm deaf, I'm able to learn from the hearing participants. And I'm able to share my experiences as a Deaf person. We've compared our perspectives and been able to find out what we have in common."

As an award-winning poet, Howard lets his work speak for him. His work often broaches the subject of being a Deaf person in a hearing world. It focuses on topics like being misunderstood, prejudice, and a longing for equality.

Howard believes Deaf artists and their hearing counterparts can have a good relationship through understanding.

"We need to be around each other and support each other, hearing people don't have the same experiences that I've had as a Deaf person," Howard said. "They don't know what it's like to sign. But, they can learn. The Deaf are willing to help them. Once that mutual understanding happens, then we'll be equals."

The Forward Arts Summer Poetry Workshop has provided the opportunity for this sort of collaboration. Howard and his teammates turn challenges into advantages as they perform.

When he takes the stage, Howard's hearing teammates become his voice. Recently, his talent and hard work reached new heights as he represented Louisiana's School for the Deaf and the state of Louisiana on the Brave New Voices Champion Poetry Slam Team.

Howard's unique perspective on life resonates with both hearing and Deaf audiences, making him one of the state's many young artists with a bright future.


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