Poet, writer, and motivational speaker Kwabena Antoine Nixon said that he was a nosy child who was curious about every little thing around him when he was growing up.
"I wanted to touch everything: I wanted to see what was going on, who was talking," Nixon said with a nod.
Nixon said that he learned about life through listening to stories that his uncles would typically share around a table at home. 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 the wanting of exploration within his environment wasn't all that it was cracked up to be. He learned harsh realities about the setting around him.
"The influx of gangs had hit Chicago," Nixon said. "They had already been there, but in my teen years, it really hit."
Gangs weren’t the only issue. Crack intruded the streets, creating conflict with people. Local grocery stores and black-owned businesses started disappearing. And one of Nixon’s primary family members lost his life.
"I lost my father at 11 years old to street violence," Nixon said. He cleared his throat before continuing. "The rest of my teen years were spent just trying to stay alive."
At that point, Nixon said that his new plan of just making it in his neighborhood was to get through high school, perhaps go to college (possibly) and just not die.
But everything changed when he started writing poetry to ease his pain. He said that he remembered putting his words down on paper dedicated to his father's funeral. His work carried on into school.
“When I wrote poetry, that was the first time I ever got attention in school,” Nixon said that he recalled. “Other than that, in school I was just like any other black kid trying to find out who you are and where you fit in, but poetry was the time that I got the attention.”
Nixon absorbed himself into scribbling words on pieces of paper. He said that he would do such things as sit and look in the sky for long periods of time while engaging in his work. From the process, he knew he was meant to be a writer.
“[And] You know you’re a writer when you ride past a house and you wonder what those people live like,” Nixon said while rubbing his hand across his scratchy black beard. “There’s no sight better than being on the west side of Chicago and be able to look downtown to see the sunrise, you know, see the sunset.”
Nixon said that he enjoyed sharing his verses with his classmates and anyone else who wanted an earful.
“It’s not so much that I was attracted to poetry as much as I was attracted to writing and expressing myself,” Nixon shifted left in the black and plastic chair he sat in. “Telling them stories of my friends, some who aren’t here now: I’m able to tell that story because I’m still here.”
Today, Nixon continues writing his rhymes with the world. He also runs a program known as the “I Will Not Die Young” campaign. Through the curriculum, he influences 120 young African American males toward creating success within their lives and communities through things such as poetry. He also hosts Poetry Unplugged.
“It’s one of the largest poetry sets in the country right here in the city of Milwaukee,” Nixon said. “It’s ten years in the running.”
With such success of turning words into art, the reciter says that he wants to continue with his work and being a dedicated household man. He 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.”
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