Two Prairie View A&M Graduates Use Poetry And Education To Reach Youth In Houston
The pair held a school supply drive in October, which Howard says was inspired by an interaction he had with two students who were caught stealing uniforms and pastries from a nearby store.
Two Prairie View A&M graduates are using the power of poetry to help their community.
Varion Howard, a middle school counselor, and Jirma Proctor, a Houston Community College professor who has a doctorate in education, use their business, Poetry Lounge Houston, to create spaces for their community to come together.
Howard and Proctor met in 1994 as students at Prarie View A&M University and quickly bonded over their passions for poetry and community service.
Proctor told the Houston Chronicle, “We are very much tapped into what’s happening with our youth, especially our boys,” Proctor said. “We’re both inner-city kids, went to Prairie View A&M, discovered a different world, and benefited from being around others who helped.”
In 2000, Howard founded Poetry Lounge Houston, which is now the longest-running poetry venue in the city. Proctor uses the event to spotlight up-and-coming spoken word artists as well as Houston’s best spoken word artists. Proctor functions as its chief financial officer, while Howard performs and hosts.
The pair held a school supply drive late in October, which Howard says was inspired by an interaction he had with two students who had been caught stealing uniforms and pastries from a nearby store. “When the student told me, ‘Tomorrow my brother is going to look like me’, I didn’t realize what he meant,” Howard told The Chronicle. “But he was saying that he and his brother didn’t have enough uniforms for school.
“This is our community, and there are a lot of obstacles in the way of our children with social media, bullying and trafficking. Uniforms and food should be the last thing they should have to worry about.”
The pair’s backgrounds play a vital role in their efforts to create a positive change in and for the city’s youth.
“I’m from Sunnyside. Jirma is from Fifth Ward,” Howard said. “We come from underprivileged communities. We come from poverty. We know what many of these kids are going through, but I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for education. I don’t want to see our kids steal and struggle with basic needs to get an education.”