"Staying Power: Concrete, Not Wood" is a multigenre production by youths in Ypsilanti, Mich., and Richmond, Calif.


Jua'Chelle Harmon

Jua'Chelle Harmon is a 17-year-old student at Washtenaw International High School and Middle Academy and member of the activisit-poetry collaboration Staying Power.

On Saturday, Dec. 7, a cohort of teen artist-activists from Ypsilanti, Michigan, and Richmond, California -- collectively known as Staying Power -- will put on a multigenre production that will culminate a year-long cultural exchange program between teens from these two communities.  

"Staying Power: Concrete, Not Wood" will blend original poetry, music, theater, and film to stage conversations around gentrification and housing injustice experienced across the U.S, centering the voices and vision of youth of color who are using their art to create change.

Jua’Chelle Harmon, 17, is one of Staying Power's participants and below she reflects on what the project and poetry mean to her.

I love poetry. Collecting words, putting them into lines, and then into memorable stanzas is my way of expressing myself.

Poetry is my escape from the life I live. I can talk about any topic and be myself without a filter and without worrying about what society may think of it.

Most importantly, I love that my poetry can move or enlighten someone else. When I perform I usually ask multiple people how it sounds or what they think about it, and usually it’s a great response and it encourages me to do more with words that I can create.

Staying Power is an Ypsilanti-based poetry group that promotes justice in many forms. It's an active group of students of color and leaders who want to educate and share knowledge about the negative reality of Ypsilanti -- a gentrified city. The gentrification process has increased in recent history, but Staying Power is bringing light to the situation so the process can decrease or end.

I joined Staying Power with little knowledge about what was actually occurring in my city and to my neighbors who I can’t call my neighbors because we have that disconnect. Through Staying Power, I have sat through history lessons, visited historical sites, and have been an influencer to my peers by visiting multiple schools in Washtenaw County to inform them of the reality of today’s Ypsilanti.

I also have a lot of support from teachers and peers from my own school, Washtenaw International High School and Middle Academy, about the Staying Power showcase in December.

Staying Power is more than just a poetry group but a family that I can relate to because we all have a passion and a dream to make where we live a better place and to advocate for ourselves.

In other words, I love Staying Power because I love Ypsilanti. 

Jua’Chelle Harmon (pronounced “Juh-Shell”) is a 17-year-old poetess that lives in Ypsilanti, MI. Jua’Chelle started creating poetry in 8th grade as a leisure activity however through her passion to advocate and care for others she made poetry her way of expression. Jua’Chelle always leaves her positive energy and unapologetic attitude wherever she goes, making everyone know of her presence. Jua’Chelle calls herself an influencer because, in all that she does, she wants to impact people in as many ways as possible and ultimately leave her legacy. 

"Staying Power: Concrete, Not Wood" is on Saturday, Dec. 7, 6-9 pm at Ypsilanti Community High School, 2095 Packard St., Ypsilanti. Tickets cost: $5/youth (21 & under); $15/adults (22 & up); $45/VIP (all ages); free for Ypsilanti Community High School students; discounts available for groups of 5-plus people if you email molly@neutral-zone.org. Get tickets at the door, in advance at the Neutral Zone (310 E. Washington), or online at http://bit.ly/StayingPower_CNW