Poetry Workshops Bring Self-love to Populations in Need

Arts & Culture

Pictured: Teaching artist Cedric Hameed workshops with the Second Heart Homes cohort for The Oneness of Art program. Photo by Nate Illardi.

When the board members of Embracing Our Differences (EOD) joined a Zoom conference to experience The Oneness of Art, Cedric Hameed’s poetry self-empowerment workshop, they thought they were in for a casual dry run. What transpired was a tour de force of feeling. “Afterwards we were all discussing how it was the best therapy we’d had in years,” says EOD executive director Sarah Wertheimer. “It went deep.”

And that’s what Hameed lives for. The poet, educator and self-empowerment speaker from Schenectady, NY combines his own journey to self-love with a talent for eliciting feeling in others, yielding workshops that leave attendees glowing with emotion. With The Oneness of Art, Hameed brings his gift to disadvantaged populations in the region, including Boys and Girls Clubs of DeSoto, Manatee and Sarasota Counties, Second Heart Homes, and Easterseals Southwest Florida. When the program ends in the Spring of 2022, each workshop cohort from each organization will partner with Ringling College of Art and Design students to create works of art based on the poems. 

“I had a rough time growing up,” says Hameed, “and my journey to self-love wasn’t easy. But once I figured it out, I didn’t want to be the only one living in that feeling.” His rough upbringing includes bearing witness to a murder at six years old, estrangement from his father and aimlessness as a young adult that stemmed from a deep fear of failure. “By the time I was 22 I had seen so much failure and disappointment in my life,” says Hameed. He was working with at-risk youth in the Bronx at that point in his life and organized a poetry reading for his group. “It snowed like crazy that day and almost nobody showed up,” he says, “except for my father.” 

That night was an inflection point for Hameed, a moment in which he discovered how a broken social fabric is sewn from broken individuals. “I realized we were just these two broken boys,” he says, “and we grew a lot after that.”

That growth is exactly what The Oneness of Art hopes for. Using poetry and deep self-reflection, Hameed hopes his poetry workshops can help attendees rise above their own unique challenges. “We’re trying to give people a place where they feel safe trying to be better,” says Hameed, “and it starts with learning to see yourself from a place of love.” For Hameed and The Oneness of Art program, the ultimate goal is to enrich the community by enriching the life of the individual, one poem at a time.

Pictured: Teaching artist Cedric Hameed workshops with the Second Heart Homes cohort for The Oneness of Art program. Photo by Nate Illardi.

Learn more about Embracing Our Differences here.

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