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Alumni Voices in Verse

The talent within our alumni community is quite literally endless. By now you know what the +1 is all about. If not, refresh here! For this edition, we have four alum poets that have shared some of their amazing pieces of work with us. We’re talking goosebumps, tears, joy, all the feels! Check below for each poets full selection and bio.


Kwyn Townsend Riley (PA Chicago ‘19)

Bio : “Since finishing Public Allies, I have been doing a lot! Back in 2018-19 I accepted a job at Urban Initiatives where I worked as a Resource Coordinator. I hired my own staff of instructors and created programming for CPS elementary school students. 

When the pandemic hit, I was understandably relieved from my job. There was no “school” so why pay for any “after school” programming, right? I decided to pursue a degree in Higher Education at Western Illinois University. During the pandemic I was out on the streets with the people and my political home BYP100. We led multiple efforts, actions and campaigns. 

During my time at WIU, I worked on my poetry album that won “Best New Poetry Collection” for 2021. 

After graduating I accepted a job at James Madison University. Currently I live here in Virginia, I work in our Center for Multicultural Students and I am an adjunct professor in the Honors College.”



Faegre pride poem


If I were to lead an Ally training in 2023

I’m My Ally training wouldn’t be the sanitized version

I would start with 

Did you know that Pride originally was a riot?

Yes, a disruption. There was no glitter. No flags.

Only fire and sore throats.

I would ask will you go to war for me?

Your battle gear covered with statistics about homelessness, job discrimination and what the Bible really said

You would be equipped with the truth and not the hate

The love and not our innate fear of anything different

Pride is different

Led by two fearless, unhoused, trans women of color. 

Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera

I would have to add 

That Marsha, like all of our martyr’s, was murdered

 they can’t seem to find the person who dumped her in the Hudson River

Sometimes I am plagued with how many trans women bodies are minced

How many queer people have been bludgeounded

How many gay people met death before their first kiss 

If I did an ally training

I would have to say the names 

Elise Malary whose body was found in Lake Michigan

Ashia Davis

Banko Brown

Koko Da Doll

Ashley Burton

Tasiyah Woodland


Over 100 trans women of color have been murdered since 2017

In 2019 the American medical association recognized the epidemic 

Over 520 anti lgbtq bills have been introduced in the state legislature

Nearly half target trans and gender non binary people

Including children

The fact is we don’t need allies

We need traitors to this system 

I dont wanna be accepted

I want to be allowed to exist 

To have children with a wife one day

To even get married in a church

To even hold her hands in public

To even kiss a cheek

I would tell them that I think my greatest sin is stealing from my grandmother, not forgiving my father in this realm and then tell them that the holiest thing that I ever done was loving a woman. 

I would have to tell them that the first time I cut myself was when I had to choose between being black and queer 

One was allowed to be outside while the other stayed suffocating in my closet 

The second time was during women’s history month when no one mentioned any queer icons

I would split myself into however many pieces to feed whoever would allow me to

Dissect myself multiple ways into something more palatable 

Something that made sense 

Because sometimes confronting people is too hard 

And sometimes I was too tired to be honest 

Not scared

But exhausted of having to explain that I exist

That people like me exist 

In my ally training 

I would have to admit that I was closeted for years

That I had no language to describe the goosebumps when I would see a woman smile

That I had no definition for the bum bum bum when I would get kissed on the hand

That I wanted to be Ryan Gosling in the Notebook to Rachel McAdams

I would want all of my cisgendered people

To inteorragte their own gender expression

Is it biology or just your own bias

In my ally training all the straight people would need to know that love is not love without action

Love is not love without action

Love is not love without action

I ain’t talkin about a parade

No flag

Or pronouns in your email address

I am talking about a conversation 

A listening ear

All of the participants in my training would talk to the queer youth

Especially the 45% of queer youth who think that taking their own life is better than living one

It’s interesting how some people say that same sex marriage reduces reproduction rates but suicide is taking the babies away quicker before any of us could say I do 

I too

Still wanna have kids

I too

Still love my woman

In my ally training we all will read all about love by bell hooks, James Baldwin 

Watch POSE and RuPaul’s Drag Race

And listen to Beyoncé’s Renaissance

Because the community you are fighting for are the community you profit off the most

The community that directs the choirs

The community that feeds and houses your children

That teaches the school

In 2023, my ally training would have to be joy

And justice

And free

And truth

Because that is all that us queer people want


Melissa Dunmore (PA Arizona ‘12)

Bio: Melissa Dunmore is a guardian of diasporic narratives and matriarch-in-training. A spoken word artist, author, and intersectional scholar of social justice originally from Brooklyn, New York with roots in rural Puerto Rico, she transplanted to the Arizona desert nearly twenty years ago. She also serves as producer for Mujeres del Sol, a cross-cultural collective of women and girls in the arts based in Phoenix. 


Melissa boasts the coveted honor of opener for bestselling contemporary poet Rupi Kaur on her World Tour and the sixth annual BlakTinx Dance Festival (2022). She continues to appear in multiple live Storytellers Project live events, many of which are then broadcast on NPR (KJZZ) and is also a full-length poetic feature in the award-winning documentary You Racist, Sexist, Bigot (2018) presented at festivals and college campuses around the world. Her work explores themes of multicultural and intersectional identity, diaspora, and motherhood. Melissa is published in three anthologies: Bar Flies: True Stories from the Early Years (2019), Black Lives Have Always Mattered (2017), and Songs of Yemaya (2017). Moreover, her poetry is included in independent publications and zines including San Antonio’s St. Sucia (2015-2016), Phoenix’s Fem Static Zine  (2015), Los Angeles’ Mujeres de Maíz (2015), and in the traveling exhibition Telepoem Booth (2016 through present). 


An alumna of Prescott College’s Master of Arts in Social Justice & Community Organizing (2019), national service through AmeriCorps Public Allies (2012), Arizona State University’s Bachelor of Arts in Communication (2011), Melissa applies her empathy and appetite for continuous learning in the fields of bilingual communications, translation and interpretation, and equity. She identifies as Black, Boricua, and Indigenous and enjoys gardening, tea, and play. Melissa currently resides in Phoenix, Arizona with four generations of her matrilineal family including her daughter, Flora.


Proceeds from the sale of my zines benefit Arizona Birthworkers of Color, a local 501c3 organization founded by my midwife. This is an example of my continued commitment to service and social justice. Anyone who wishes to purchase a zine may do so through Venmo. That link and others featuring recent work and performances can be found on my Linktree through my Instagram. “



Forgetting Femininity

By Melissa Dunmore


I woke up in the morning and forgot I was a girl

forgot about it all, forgot to let my hair unfurl

forgot to pirouette across the floor and twirl

forgot about the weight of the world

I woke up in the morning and forgot about my clothes

about finding “Mr. Right” and all my womanly woes

forgot about panties, bras, and bows

forgot “that’s just the way it is” is just the way it goes

Forgot that for much of my childhood I dressed like a boy

wore my cousins’ hand me downs and played with their toys

was taught to speak sweetly and not to make noise

to always smile politely and conduct myself with poise

I woke up in the morning and wished there was a storm

forgot my silhouette is the purest art form

gender is what others perceive and what we perform

and in trying to stand apart I still conform

I woke up in the morning and forgot about convention

fables of men and their attention

to regard their come-ons with coquettish apprehension

that kindness is an often misconstrued expression

I forgot that society is consumed with aesthetics

how the shelves at the stores are lined with cosmetics

tubes of gloss and bottles of poison, it’s pathetic

how I forgot that my naked guise is magnetic

I forgot that I’m a site of fascination

a favored “exotic” travel destination

with the return flight booked ahead in estimation

yearning for courtship and its antiquation

I forgot that to some I’m just a pretty face

just a body, a space

a performance, a place

it’s as much about the trophy as it is about the chase


I woke up in the morning and forgot about political leaning

how I prefer to look natural rather than constantly preening

forgot about routine biopsies and cancer screenings

how in my composure there lies hidden meaning

I woke up in the morning and forgot to have a say

those little pink pills some women take each day

keeping reproductive ability at bay

deciding when to leave and deciding when to stay

I woke up and forgot that women aren’t paid the same

that when girls are raped they feel ashamed

and sometimes carry all the blame

that there is truth in every whispered name

I woke up in the morning and forgot about my fate

to always look my best and always smell great

not to make the first move and wait to be taken on a date

to live my life full of friendships in pursuit of a mate

I woke up in the morning and forgot about my past

how sometimes floozies get ahead and nice girls finish last

how the core of my being is as dense as it is vast

to pay the price for going too slow or for moving too fast

I woke up in the morning and forgot I have a womb

the ability to nurture life like a bud waiting to bloom

how all my fears of human nature can all but consume

if I were to articulate all that I fear I could create a sonic BOOM

I woke up in the morning and forgot that I am female

forgot the in – ah – and then the exhale

that I am skin, bone, organ, entrails

and neither my body, mind, nor spirit is for sale

When I wake up each morning I am still a girl

with no makeup on and all my tangled curls

as my eyes adjust to the light possibilities unfurl

and as I embrace each day I too embrace this world.


Analisa LaCour (PA Arizona ‘10 ‘11)

Bio: Analisa is a mother, wife & author of the book To Cry for a Falling Star, a collection of poems documenting her grief journey and identity as she processed the loss of her mother, a member of the Gila River Indian Community. O’odham culture was foundational to Analisa’s upbringing and inspired her to pursue a career of service through Public Allies Arizona. During her tenure with PAAZ she focused on the academic, social and cultural wellbeing of Native American youth and teens, a theme that continued to weave itself in her subsequent work, including most recently at Arizona State University where she focused on transfer students and community college relations. Analisa’s time is now dedicated to being a stay at home mom. When she’s not chasing around her children, she enjoys roller skating, hiking, and tending to her plants.





The legacy of other

inherited from the start

Like when they thought you were “the help”

Our skins too contrasting to be of the same DNA

Little did they know

our baskets are made of both willow and devil’s claw

We were interwoven in an intricate design

Shadow and light

wrapped tightly

Distinct from each other

but essential in the formation of a whole

and purposeful tool

Formed by gnarled, imperfect hands

Strong and unwavering

Resilient and beautiful

In our origins we are but mud

Formed and foolish

until we understood our place

in before and after

You were never the other,

skin as soft and rich as desert dirt

From your depth I was born

Exposed and cracked

Supported and useful

I was never the guide with which to be measured

I existed because of you

Not in relation to

Nor you in relation to me

But in relation to the generations before

and all that will be

Because the same stars that shone on

the grandmothers we’ve never known

will illuminate the paths of

the daughters we’ll never meet

And the folks who seek to separate

you from me

don’t understand that we show nothing

other than

a legacy of



Yexandra Diaz (PA Connecticut ‘19) 

Bio: Yexandra “Yex” Diaz is an Afro-Boriqua multidisciplinary artist skilled in Spoken Word & Bomba. Yex, the 2022 International Festival of Arts & Ideas Adult Slam Champion and former Creative Workforce Initiative Intern with Movimiento Cultural where she reintroduced the component of poetry alongside her capacity building work in the nonprofit art sector, has been the Resident Creative Writing Facilitator for both Trinity College’s International Hip Hop Festival and Common Ground High School 4 years counting. She is a current Teaching Artist with The Word Fest New Haven and soon to be Mentor with The New Haven Artists Corps. Yex has opened up for the likes of artists such as J. Ivy and The Last Poets – with whom she works closely. She has graced the stages of: Jamaica Performing Arts Center for the Def Poetry Jam Reunion, Long Wharf Theaterfor  a production titled Yerba Bruja, and most recently, The Shubert Theater for both a solo poetry set and collective bomba performance as a part of the Elm City’s Finest Showcase. At her core, Yex is a social justice oriented community leader who serves as an AmeriCorps Program Manager, Interdisciplinary Doula, and Private Consultant. She utilizes her voice and body as an instrument to highlight, heal, and honor oppression by evoking radical spiritualism to uplift afro-indigenous storytelling.


“This piece is a commissioned collaboration with a videographer named Brysen Moore titled, Hit Like A Girl. I was privileged to be the pen and voice for this spec ad project. “



Hit Like A Girl