Growing up in an inner-city environment can be filled with daily struggles that no child should have to endure. Springfield resident, Gregory Perkins II, is striving to ensure that they at least do not have to endure their struggles alone. Greg knows firsthand what it is like to grapple with adversity from a young age, and he knows that what young people in desperate situations need most is a support system. Project Jericho was the program that came to Greg’s aid as an adolescent; without the outlet and sense of community that it provided, he firmly believes that he would have succumbed to the pressures of his trying circumstances. Instead, with the help of this youth organization Greg developed a remarkable resilience and a deeply inspiring drive to help others in a similar fashion: “I’ve had to fight and scrape and scrap…I want to give back because if I can make it other kids can too. But it’s wrong to expect anyone to do that alone. I want to be the support for those who don’t matter”.
Greg has always been passionate about poetry, and he originally planned to use this passion to create a group of traveling, spoken-word poets. After reflecting upon the circumstances of his youth and accounting for his desire to help others, Greg decided instead to establish a spoken-word youth group: Springfield Outspoken. He hopes that someday in the not-so-distant future his organization will provide Springfield’s youth with an outlet by means of an art form as well as a community of friends with whom they can share their experiences and come to for guidance. Greg says that he feels that spoken word is the perfect medium for helping youth because “poetry has a tendency to really bring people together like family—that’s what I want to bring to the kids”. He plans to reach out to middle school and high school kids, but he believes his program could be especially beneficial to preteens who are just entering the stage in their life in which they will be exposed to drugs, alcohol, violence, and sex. He hopes to help them adjust to these new challenges at this most vulnerable transition point saying: “I want to help them before they do something to somebody, including themselves”.
At this point in time, Springfield Outspoken is still in the planning stages, but Greg is confident that his persistence will pay off and the organization will become a reality. He still has a lot of red tape to get through, explaining that it will take him about four to five months to file as a nonprofit organization at the state level and eight months at the federal level. In the meantime, Greg has been hard at work trying to spread the word. He has already contacted Wittenberg University to generate interest from the Community Service department, hoping that students may be inclined to work with him as a part of their service requirement or purely as a way of involving themselves in the Springfield community. Perhaps in the near future, Wittenberg students will be able to partner with Springfield Outspoken to fulfill Greg’s dream of offering support to those who need it most through spoken word poetry.