2010-2015: Candance

Candance performing her original work at InsideOut’s inaugural Share the Light benefit. (2017)

Why I Write

by Candance 

I write when people say I taIk too much. 

I write to set the world aflame.

I write to speak for those who are afraid to.

I write to state my rights.

I write to represent my race.

I write to show I’m not afraid.

I write to show my creativity.

I write to say who I am.

I write to be free.

When I was growing up, I noticed that in school, they’d always give us an unrealistic idea of what life would be like growing up, especially black kids. In elementary and middle school, we were given the idea that we could grow up and do anything, with no problems. They didn’t warn us about the oppression the black community goes through, and how much harder things are for us in the world. I always had the idea that everyone was equal. We weren’t taught about white supremacy, or systematic racism, or police brutality. 

I remember that poem I wrote in middle school, “Only Us,” and it’s become more relevant lately than ever. When I re-watched the video of our performance, one of the lines that really hit me was, “We speak for a man with peace in his dreams.” That’s all we as a community want and are hoping to achieve. 

The reason we don’t feel comfortable in our skin is because it seems like the color of our skin constantly poses a threat to others around us. That shouldn’t be the case but it is. In “Only Us,” we talked about how we were coming on behalf of the black community, and how we had to work together to try and put a stop to the negativity surrounding the black community, and recently that’s what’s being seen with the riots and marches and protests. 

Art has become one of my favorite ways to express myself. Whether it’s with paint, chalk, color pencils, I’ve truly come to appreciate how expressive art is. I’ve also gotten into art history and learning the backstory on certain artists and their paintings. Music has become crucial too. It’s part of who I am. I joined my school’s band and started learning how to play. Music is a universal language and I’ve come to appreciate it more and more and realize how powerful it is.

InsideOut has brought so much joy to my life in the last six years. I really do cherish every opportunity I get in the program. InsideOut helped me become a better reader and writer. Through InsideOut, I learned how to use my words better, and reading became even more addictive. It also helped me talk about things such as loss. When I got to high school I felt like I was trying to find myself all over again, and I wasn’t the person I had previously thought I was; it was a big culture shock. But writing was still a big part of my life. I still use writing frequently to express myself. Whether it’s for creative writing in class or if I’m writing a personal poem or letter. I’ve started a tradition of writing everyone in my immediate family a poem for them on their birthday and it normally comes easy to me and I can say that I have InsideOut to thank for that.

The goals and aspirations I have for myself are to become a veterinarian, or work in a field that assists animals in need. I’ve always felt a need to tend to creatures that couldn’t help themselves. It’s been my dream job since I was a little girl. In addition to that, I’d like to become a writer, more than likely a poet, and use my writings to speak out on rights for black people and women’s rights.


Candance’s mother, Deborah Montgomery, an experienced educator and literacy specialist, reflected upon seeing her daughter and students flourish in InsideOut’s programs:

As my daughter and I watched the inauguration of the 46th President of the United States, I gently kissed my daughter on her forehead and I said, “That can be my little girl.”  I wasn’t referring to the historical moment of Vice President Kamala Harris being sworn into office, I was referring to Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman.    

I watched this young lady in amazement and with a sense of nostalgia because I remember being the proud mom who watched her daughter deliver a powerful piece of poetry in front of a large audience at the Fisher Music Center. I can honestly say she may have not had that opportunity without Detroit’s own InsideOut program. 

Yes, all parents say hopeful phrases to motivate their children, but when I said Candance could be the next Amanda Gorman, I meant it. I felt confident in my statement because she had the six-year journey of participating in InsideOut.  This program is known to tap into the hidden fountain of words within our children. I had the opportunity to see Candance take her naturally expansive vocabulary and love of little-known facts and morph it into beautiful poetry. I will be forever grateful to InsideOut’s founder, Dr. Terry Blackhawk, for having the faith to try something different; and to Mr. Pete, for carrying out the mission, which allows children to express what’s INSIDE, OUTside for the rest of us to see. — Deborah Montgomery