Poet and motivational speaker Kwabena Antoine Nixon said that he lived as a nosy child. He stayed curious about every little thing around him.
"I wanted to touch everything: I wanted to see what was going on, who was talking," Nixon said with a nod.
He said that he learned about life through listening to stories that his uncles would share around a table. He also said that he gained insight from his grandmother. She wasn't afraid of offering a child her "old wives tales."
But as Nixon got older, he realized that curiosity in his neighborhood wasn't all that it was cracked up to be. Gangs and crack intruded the streets, creating conflict. Local grocery stores and black-owned businesses started disappearing. One of Nixon’s primary family members lost his life.
"I lost my father at 11 years old to street violence," Nixon said and cleared his throat. "The rest of my teen years were spent just trying to stay alive."
But everything changed when Nixon started producing poetry to ease his pain. Nixon said that he enjoyed scribbling words on pieces of paper and sharing his verses with his classmates or anyone who wanted an earful. From the process, he knew he was meant to be a writer.
As a child when Nixon began writing poetry, he did not know how much of a change it would come to make in his life.
“I knew what poetry was but, I didn’t know anybody made a living off of it,” Nixon said. “I didn’t think it was worth it.”
Into his adulthood years, Nixon moved to Milwaukee, Wis. where he began working with African American youth. He is currently working with 10 high schools in the city as a workshop facilitator. He helps young male students attain good grades and attendance through a program called, “Saving Our Sons- I Will Not Die Young.”
Nixon works as workshop facilitator helping at-risk male students. He influences young African American males toward creating success within their lives and communities.
Dafi Malik, project director for the program, said that Nixon has “a gift for inspiring youth.” Malik also said “it was an easy decision to be a part of this movement.”
When working with the kids, Nixon tries to give them a safe environment where they will feel comfortable speaking about their problems. Through writing and speaking about their issues, he hopes that the students will be more willing to make a positive change.
Poetry and youth work had a positive effect on Nixon’s life. He wants that same for the students he works with. He said he wants to give them the expressive skills that he wished he found in himself sooner.
“Had somebody come along and shown me what I do now, I think it would’ve been a different turn out in our neighborhood,” he said.
Outside of the program, Nixon is part of one of the largest poetry sets in the country called “Poetry Unplugged.” The 10-year-old program occurs every Tuesday in Milwaukee and features Nixon as its host. The poetry set includes spoken word artist and open mic nights.
With such success of turning words into art, the reciter said that he wants to continue with his work and positively impact the society. He also said that he plans on continuing spending time with his family and laughing to jokes from the series “Family Guy.”
“I know that’s not good for the talk, but you need a release,” Nixon said with a laugh. “And Stewie is probably the funniest… OK I’ll stop.”
“It’s not so much that I was attracted to poetry as much as I was attracted to writing and expressing myself,” Nixon said as he shifted back in his plastic black chair. “Telling [people] stories of my friends, some who aren’t here now: I’m able to tell that story because I’m still here.”