NewsBlack History Month 2024


'I am honored': KCMO City Council appoints Black woman as city's 1st ever poet laureate

Melissa Ferrer Civil
Posted at 6:41 PM, Feb 01, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-01 19:41:23-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Melissa Ferrer Civil began writing poetry at the age of 12, taking inspiration from Maya Angelou, the prominent poet and civil rights activist.

Ferrer Civil said it was at this age when she knew it was her calling to use her words to help her community.

"It was then that I knew how I would serve my community — by helping to provide solidarity through my own vulnerability to those who felt isolated and alone," she said.

Years later, her efforts and work haven't gone unnoticed.

Ferrer Civil's work has been featured in The Plentitudes and the Rising Phoenix Review among other places.

And now, she made history at the KCMO City Hall Council Chamber on Thursday when the council named her the city's first ever poet laureate.

"Melissa is somebody who follows in an outstanding tradition of people who tell the stories of our success, our struggle, our triumph, and our challenges," KCMO Mayor Quinton Lucas said. "I am so excited that today we get to name her and recognize her — a local poet, a Black poet, a woman poet, somebody who cares about Kansas City — as our city's first poet laureate."

KCMO Mayor Pro-Tem Ryanna Parks-Shaw said Ferrer Civil will now have the ability to inspire others like herself.

"Today marks an awesome day for those little girls, those little Black girls, who now will be able to see themselves in her," Parks-Shaw said.

Ferrer Civil said she's excited to continue helping her community through her poetry.

"I am honored to accept the position as Kansas City's inaugural poet laureate," she said. "As I embark on this journey, I take the words of these ancestors and predecessors to heart."

The poet says she plans to teach poetry as a medium for transformation, liberation, reclamation and solidarity.