Philadelphia is … weird. Just this week, a selfless citizen went viral for dissing Nelson Agholor on TV—after, quite literally, saving babies’ lives. We are a city with countless stories to tell, stories our youth would be well-served to jot down and unpack.
That’s what Tim Whitaker set out to do when he founded the youth writing program Mighty Writers in 2009: encourage young people throughout our city to take note of the world around them, and explore and expand it through writing.
Since its inception, the organization has worked with thousands of students. It has seven locations throughout the city, and Whitaker is dedicated to opening up more.
“We could open a Mighty Writers on every block in Philly and we would get kids to fill the classroom,” Whitaker says of its continued popularity. Mighty Writers has four-day-a-week writing academies, four-session writing workshops, toddler classes, mentorships, Teen Scholar programs, and college essay writing nights. They are especially known around the city for their free book distribution events and their support of literacy initiatives.
“Philly is a weird city and these kids see weird stuff on the playground and at the rec centers, so they have this sharp sense of humor,” Whitaker says. “They are natural storytellers.”
This weekend you can join Mighty Writers at their second-annual MightyFest:
- Friday at 4pm there will be an Anti-Violence Summit, where Mighty Writers’ Teen Scholars will discuss initiatives to combat violence in Philly with elected officials.
- On Saturday from 10am to 4pm there will be a Literacy Carnival with 65 booths, music, games and books both for sale and as raffle prizes.
- Saturday night, Michael Barbara of The New York Times’ podcast The Daily will be talking with Mighty Writers; this event is $75 and will include the talk, drinks, and hors d’oeuvres.
- And on Sunday at 11am you can join WURD’s Solomon Jones and the Girard College Choir for a Gospel Breakfast; tickets for this are $60 and include the talk, concert, and a classic southern-style breakfast.
The idea of the Anti-Violence Summit came out of a staff meeting following a particularly violent weekend in Philly. “So many of these shootings are in the neighborhoods we serve. These kids are familiar with violence. We thought, let’s have them talking directly to politicians and get a real dialogue going,” says Whitaker.
Whitaker, a big fan of both gospel music and WURD’s Solomon Jones, is particularly excited about the gospel breakfast on Sunday morning; he believes Jones has a unique talent for talking about issues in ways that will connect with the kids in attendance.
“Philly is a weird city and these kids see weird stuff on the playground and at the rec centers, so they have this sharp sense of humor,” Whitaker says. “[They] have so many great stories to tell and are natural storytellers.”
Friday, September 27, 4pm – Sunday, September 29, 11 am, tickets from free to $75, various locations.Photo courtesy Mighty Writers