Black Excellence: 17-Year-Old Tottenham Boy Wins Foyle Young Poets Award

17-year-old Black boy, Giovanni Rose, from Tottenham, came out successful amongst over 6,000 young poets from all over the world to win the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award 2021 with his poem titled “Welcome to Tottenham”.

In his reaction to the remarkable feat, Giovanni said: “It was an amazing feeling. I’m glad that the experiences I felt as a young lad from Tottenham will reach a lot of different young people who might have gone through the same thing as me.

“It’s important to use your voice, you’ll never know what changes you can make until you try.”
Giovanni explained that for him, poetry has always been a way to express himself and says a lot of things are hard to articulate to another person when speaking – “it’s easier to express in poetry, it’s like talking to myself”.

He added: “I feel inspired when I’m listening to music – I like rap music and poetry is the purest form of rap.”

In its 23rd year, The Poetry Society announced the winners and judges Clare Pollard and Yomi Sode said: “Judging this year’s Foyle Young Poets of the Year was an absolute honor.

“After a period in which the burdens of the pandemic have often fallen so heavily on young people, we were moved by the beauty, fire, and resilience of these poems.”

Since 1998, the Award has been finding and supporting young poets from around the world. The competition is for young poets aged between 11 and 17 years old.

From the 14,408 poems entered, this year’s judges Clare and Yomi selected 100 winners, made up of 15 top poets and 85 commended poets.

Winners of the award receive a range of prizes to help develop their writing while the top 15 poets are invited to attend a residential writing course at the Arvon center, The Hurst in Shropshire, in February 2022. There they will spend a week with Clare and Yomi focusing on improving their poetry.

Welcome to Tottenham

by Giovanni Rose

Welcome to Tottenham.

Where we wake up to the smell of ‘Chick king’,

mixed with the odor of the corpse from the night before.

Where we cover our blood-stained streets with dried up gum,

Where kids have holes in their last pairs of shoes,

Where daddy left mummy and mummy’s left poor.

Welcome to Tottenham.

Where if you look like me then it’s harder for you,

Where everybody’s equal unless they’re darker than you.

Where the police see color before they see the crime,

Where children get stopped and searched and aren’t allowed to ask why.

Welcome to Tottenham.

Where the drugs addicts sit at the back of the 149.

Where education and sports are the only ways to shine.

Where we ride around on stolen scooters,

Where we can’t afford tuition so the streets are our tutors.

Welcome to Tottenham.

I love but I hate my home,

I still listen to the voicemails of my dead peers on my phone,

I live in a nightmare. I had to learn how to dream,

I’m afraid to open up because you won’t survive if you’re weak.

Welcome to Tottenham.

The devil’s playground.

We fight over streets we don’t own,

Knife crimes are on the rise because the beef can’t be left alone.

Why does no one understand that we just want our youth clubs back,

Why do they claim they’re not racist but label the violence here black?

Welcome to Tottenham.

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